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The York Comprehensive High School cage teams concluded the 2012-13 season with a double-header loss to longtime rival Clover before a near-capacity crowd in Blue Eagle Country.
After a first-quarter standoff ended in a 4-4 tie, the Lady Cougars hung tough in the second quarter until the Lady Blue Eagles pulled away in the second half to win handily, 57-13.
YCHS girls coach Paula Blackwell reflected on a rebuilding season.
“I am proud of the girls for playing hard and wish the seniors well,” said Blackwell. “Of course, we were not happy with not making the playoffs and we don’t plan on this happening too often because York has a strong tradition.”
Blackwell said she didn’t feel as bad when legendary Great Falls coach John Smith went through a similar pattern. The Red Devils failed to make the playoffs for the first time in many years.
“This is the first year since I’ve been here that we haven’t been scrambling around picking up playoff DVDs,” said Blackwell. “High school teams go through cycles and we’re in one now.”
The YCHS coach said the team will take a week off, after which the players who aren’t competing in a spring sport will be working out, doing speed, strength and circuit training.
“We know we have to get more explosive, react quicker and get stronger,” said Blackwell. “We have one rising senior, Hannah Cassell, and six rising juniors, so we will work to fill some spots over the summer.”
Though Blackwell is excited about kids wanting to make extra commitments, she said the players have to be consistent and follow through with it.
“We have very supportive parents in our program and I know they will do all they can to get their daughters to AAU or extra camps in the offseason,” Blackwell said. “We have a group of eighth to 10th graders playing AAU and some of our younger kids are finding teams in the Rock Hill area to improve their games.
“Struggle is a part of life and it will only make us stronger.”
Meanwhile, the Cougars stayed within striking distance for much of the game, until the host Blue Eagles expanded the lead in the second half to win, 56-40.
The Cougars came out in a state of Friday night readiness.
DeShaw Andrews, the team’s leading scorer for the season, got things started with the first basket of the game.
Moments later, Markell Castle drilled a 3-pointer and the visitors from York were up 5-1.
Josh McCoy scored on a nifty feed from teammate Daurice Simpson, pushing the Cougars ahead, 7-1.
Andrews scored another basket but the Blue Eagles closed the gap, trailing 9-8 after the first quarter.
The second quarter was closely-contested most of the way, with the Blue Eagles working hard to build a 24-18 halftime lead.
With the Cougars trailing by five in the latter stages of the quarter, consecutive baskets by DJ Simpson and Castle sliced the lead to a single point before Clover spurted for a six point halftime lead.
The Cougars stayed within striking distance for much of the second half, but Clover withstood the challenge for the win.
“We struggled tonight,” YCHS head coach Larry Dixon said. “The kids played hard.”
Dixon said this season has been a learning experience for a young team. “We will continue to work hard and improve next season,” he said.
Andrews paced the scoring for York with 15 points. Daurice Simpson was next with 10 points and a pair of 3-pointers.