Clovers crowned champs
PUTNAMVILLE -- The Clover-dale Clovers boys' basketball team knew entering the Class 2A Sectional 45 Championship game at South Putnam Saturday night against the 14th-ranked Tri-West Bruins would be, at best, a difficult task.
The Bruins had previously handed the Clovers a tough 17-point defeat at Tri-West last December 16th, 84-67.
The estimated 2,000 fans attending the game, witnessed one of the most dramatic and emotional sectional final games since South Putnam won the Sectional over Tri-West in 2003.
In a game that had numerous momentum swings by both teams, Cloverdale pulled out the win in the final minutes of the game to earn its first Sectional championship since 1983, and the 10th Sectional title in the school's history, 65-58.
"It was a great win for us, it was a great win for the community, and for Putnam County and the West Central Conference," commented coach Rady after the game. "Tri-West has consistently set the standard that we have been trying to reach each year.
"We challenged our kids at the beginning of the year, that we had to get to the level of Tri-West and we've preached that all year long."
Tri-West exploded out of the gate at the start of the game, scoring nine unanswered points in the first three minutes of the game.
Cloverdale coach Pat Rady called a 30-second timeout to settle his troops and they responded, limiting Tri-West to one point during the next 8:30 of the game, while scoring 19 points on the Clover end of the floor.
The Clovers led 11-9 at the end of the first quarter, as Christian Cheatham, Michael Neese, Seth Trinkle and Craig Blair scored for Cloverdale in the period.
Cloverdale opened up its lead to 19-10 with 4:01 left in the second quarter, as Trinkle and Ryan Dean combined to score six points, and Blair grabbed the rebound of a missed Bruin shot, then threw a perfect pass to a streaking Cheatham who slammed through a thundering dunk that brought the Clover fans to their feet.
Cheatham and Blair hit two more baskets for the Clovers, to give their team a 23-17 lead with 22 seconds left in the half, but Tri-West hit a three-point shot at the buzzer, and Cloverdale took a 23-20 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The third quarter turned out to be a battle from beginning to end, as the score was tied three times in the period. The Clovers held a narrow, two-point lead at the end of the stanza, 39-37, as Cloverdale's balanced offense allowed Blair, Dean, Cheatham, Neese and Trinkle to combine for 16 points in the period.
Cloverdale suffered a setback in the third quarter as Cheatham picked up his fourth foul of the game at the 3:02 mark, as Rady was forced to send him to the sideline.
Everyone in the building knew that the final eight minutes of the game would be a quarter where legends were made, and they weren't to be disappointed.
The lead changed hands four times in the first 4:15 of the final period, and then Neese was fouled while attempting a three-point shot. He calmly hit all three free throws to give the Clovers the lead at 47-44, and Cloverdale never trailed after that point in the game.
Blair and Trinkle scored four and three points, respectively, in the next 1:14, but Cheatham, who had re-entered the game a few minutes earlier, picked up his fifth foul while trying to rebound a missed free throw.
His replacement, Ryan Shoulders, came into the game and gave the Clovers a big lift.
He and Trinkle each grabbed two critical rebounds of missed Tri-West shots, and combined to hit 7-of-8 free throws in the final 1:48 of the game, Neese grabbed a rebound and was fouled with 22.3 seconds left. He hit both free throws, and 10 seconds later, he made a timely steal of a Bruin pass, was fouled, and hit two more free throws to give the Clovers a 65-55 lead.
Tri-West hit a shot with 0:01 showing on the clock for the final points of the game.
In the final 2:06 of the game, Tri-West had been forced to foul Cloverdale to try to get the ball back. The Clovers responded by hitting 12-of-14 free throws to clinch Cloverdale's first sectional championship in 24 years.
The Clovers hit 50 percent of their two-point shots, 33 percent of their three-point shots, 77 percent on 20-of-26 shooting from the free throw line, and outrebounded Tri-West, 35-29.
Comparatively, Tri-West hit 42 percent of its two-point shots, 25 percent of its three-point shots, and 50 percent of its free throws.
It was a team victory in every way as six Cloverdale players got into the scoring column, with four of them scoring in double figures, and six players grabbing critical rebounds for the Clovers.
"This was also a great win for the players who have played here the past two previous seasons. The Weltys, the McCammons, the Haltoms, the Lovins, and others, were all a part of this win tonight. You've got to give credit to those kids who bought in to what we wanted to do, set the stage, and they were pretty good examples for these guys to follow. Those guys are a part of this family," Rady said. "This win even goes back to coach [Jim] Miller, coach [Al] Tucker, and the other coaches who've followed, because they were the ones who helped establish the great tradition that we have here at Cloverdale."
Rady, who grew up in Putnam County and started his coaching career here, was especially pleased to pick up the title.
"I enjoy being a Putnam County boy and being back home," he said.
Neese, Trinkle and Cheatham led the Clovers with 14 points each while Blair added 13. Dean also had six points and Shoulders added four.
Neese and Dean led the Clovers in rebounding with nine and eight, respectively, while Neese and Blair both had three assists.
The Clovers (18-6, 5-1 WCC) travel to Southridge in Huntingburg next Saturday to play 3rd-ranked Providence in the second Regional game. The game begins at 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and noon Central Standard Time.
South Putnam Class 2A Sectional 45 Championship
Cloverdale 11 12 16 26 -- 65
Tri-West 9 11 17 21 -- 58
Cloverdale (18-6, 5-1 WCC) -- Neese 2-10 9-9 14, Blair 6-8 1-2 13, Trinkle 5-10 4-8 14, Cheatham 6-12 0-1 14, Shoulders 0-0 4-4 4, Gregg 0-0 0-0 0, Hacker 0-0 0-0 0, Dean 2-5 2-2 6. Totals 21-45 FG, 20-26 FT, 65 TP.
Tri-West (17-6, 5-2 SAC) -- Pfeifer 0-0 0-0 0, Tanselle 1-3 0-0 3, Ricks 2-10 0-0 6, Robertson 3-4 1-4 7, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Allen 0-0 0-0 0, Skudrovskis 0-0 0-0 0, Lowe 0-3 5-7 5, Pugliese 1-1 0-0 2, Moses 9-18 0-1 19, Thompson 0-4 0-0 0, Bruce 7-20 0-0 16. Totals 22-62 FG, 6-12 FT, 58 TP.
3-pt. FG -- C 3-9 (Cheatham 2-2), TW 6-24 (Ricks 2-6, Bruce 2-10). Rebounds -- C 35 (Neese 9), TW 29 (Robertson 10). Blocks -- C 3 (Cheatham 2), TW 2 (Moses 1, Thompson 1). Assists -- C 8 (Neese 3, Blair 3), TW 8 (Moses 3). Steals -- C 10 (Neese 3), TW 10 (Thompson 4). Total fouls -- C 14, TW 24. Fouled out -- Cheatham (C), Ricks (TW), Lowe (TW). Turnovers -- C 18, TW 15.
Next game -- The Clovers (18-6, 5-1 WCC) travel to Southridge in Huntingburg next Saturday to play 3rd-ranked Providence in the second Regional game. The game begins at 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and noon Central Standard Time.