CLOVERDALE -- The Cloverdale Clovers rallied from a 17-point deficit, but finished two points short Tuesday night, losing the opening game of the boys high school basketball season 57-55 to the visiting North Central Thunderbirds.
North Central outscored Cloverdale 20-8 in the third quarter and extended the lead in the fourth quarter to 54-37 with 4 minutes and 30 seconds left in the contest.
But over the final 4 1/2 minutes of play, Cloverdale outscored North Central 18-3.
Brandon Dorman scored 10 of his game-high 20 points for Cloverdale during the fourth quarter rally. Kade Schroer, who finished with 16 points, hit a three that closed the gap to 56-50 with 2:05 to play. And with 9.8 seconds left, Nick Cupp, who scored 13 points, put back a rebound for a basket that got the Clovers within three, 57-54.
Cloverdale coach Pat Rady, opening his 49th season as a varsity basketball coach, was happy to see the Clovers rally.
"We were very pleased with the effort and that we didn't quit. We've got to have patience with this club," Rady said.
Cloverdale's Schroer, who was 3-5 from three-point range in the first quarter, and North Central freshman Gavin Stanifer, who hit 6-7 three-point shots in an 18-point varsity debut, traded perimeter shots through the first eight minutes of the game.
"I don't know which comes first, the chicken or the egg. I think the inside game has got to come then the outside game will be available, or if your outside game is going then that opens up your inside game. It's got to be a combination and hopefully before the year is over we'll have both," Rady said.
And that was the problem in the second quarter. Cloverdale led 16-15 after one period, but the smaller Thunderbirds started working the ball inside and using their quickness to get around the taller Clovers.
North Central led 28-27 at halftime and really caught fire in the third period. The Thunderbirds, who shot 65 percent from the floor for the game, hit 7-10 shots in the third period while pulling away to a 48-35 lead going into the final eight minutes.
The Clovers took full advantage of the Thunderbirds attempt to use up the clock over the final 4:30.
Brantson Scott started Cloverdale's rally with two free throws. Then Dorman scored eight straight points, trimming North Central's lead to 56-47.
"We did get the ball a little bit closer to the basket. We started driving and causing them to make some adjustments on defense," Randy said.
Schroer's fifth three of the game got the Clovers to within six, 56-50, with 2:05 left. Then Dorman scored another layup.
Cummings' offensive rebound basket got the Clovers within three points.
Then two free throws bounced off the rim and an inside shot drew iron but not net.
The Cloverdale JV opened the season with a 31-21 lead. Freddy Fislar led the Clovers with 11 points.
North Central -- 15 13 20 9 -- 57
Cloverdale -- 16 11 8 20 -- 55
North Central (57) -- Lebeda 5-7 0-0 10, Stucker 0-1 0-0 0, Peterson 1-3 0-2 2, Jewell 4-6 1-3 11, Stanifer 6-8 0-0 18, Nikirk 6-9 2-3 14, Drake 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 22-34 FG, 5-10 FT, 57 TP.
Cloverdale (55) -- Dorman 8-12 3-4 20, Cupp 5-5 3-3 13, Scott 1-2 2-2 4, Hughes 0-2 0-0 0, Schroer 5-16 1-2 16, Cummings 1-3 0-1 2. Totals 20-40 FG, 9-12 FT, 55 TP.
3Pt Goals: NC 8-13 (Stanifer 6-7, Jewell 2-3, Stucker 0-1, Nikirk 0-2), C 6-21 (Schroer 5-15, Dorman 1-5, Hughes 0-1).
Total fouls: NC 13, C 11.
Fouled out: None.
Turnovers: NC 14, C 11.
Rebounds: NC 22 (Peterson 7), C 13 (Scott 6).
Steals: NC 4 (Jewell 2), C 8 (Scott 3).
Next game: On Saturday North Central (1-0) travels to Eastern Greene, while Cloverdale (0-1) plays at Riverton Parke.