CHS geared up for Providence

Thursday, March 8, 2007
Cloverdale senior Michael Neese practices his jump shot during the Clovers' Wednesday practice. CHS will face Providence in the first round of the Southridge Regional Saturday.

CLOVERDALE -- In recent days, many terms have been throw around to describe the Cloverdale Clovers boys' basketball squad -- West Central Conference champions, sectional champions. But the one term heard over and over again from player and coaches alike was simply team.

"We've got good team chemistry," coach Pat Rady explained. "We work hard and we're a balanced team."

"We just have to keep playing like we have been. All of us playing together," junior Craig Blair said.

"We need to keep rebounding both offensively and defensively like we have been," junior Ryan Dean added.

The mood at Wednesday's practice was calm and relaxed but with an undercurrent of determination.

The Clovers will be facing the third-ranked Providence Pioneers in the first game of the Class 2A Southridege Regional and know they have to rise to the occasion.

"They have no weakness," Rady said. "They're strong, quick, they shoot the ball well. They completely shut you down and I think that will be a big challenge for us, challenging their defense."

When asked about the best way to attack a stifling defense like the Pioneers', Rady pointed out it starts with defense.

"One theory is you try to get down the floor before the defense has a chance to set up but it comes from our defense and our rebounding and getting the ball out," he said.

"This is what makes high school basketball so great. We're going to play a team of this caliber and we accept that challenge."

Another thing the team was quick to acknowledge was not only their pleasure of representing the community of Cloverdale but Putnam County as a whole.

"We appreciate the support from the fans. We're playing for the community (Cloverdale), Putnam County and the WCC," Rady said.

Providence is unknown basketball territory for the Clovers but the prospect of facing the Pioneers seemed not to concern the team too much.

"Not really knowing their abilities, not having seen them play, we're just gonna have to come out straight up and play some basketball," senior Christian Cheatham emphasized.

"We've just got to be aggressive and not let them go where they want to go," senior Michael Neese added.

The current team is quick to acknowledge the appreciation for the teams that came before them. They know that things were put into motion before them and will continue after them.

"This is a group of humble young men," Rady said. "It's not just this team but the last two years. They came in this summer and showed these guys how hard it is work. They paved the way," Rady commented about his former players.

"I told them from day one, until we get a group of young men who realize that the name across the chest is far more important than anything, we'll probably never reach the championship level," Rady added. "I think this team really bought into that."

When asked about what keeps inspiring him after a 43-year coaching career, Rady had some very simple answers.

"I love practice and being around these kids. I don't hunt, I don't golf. Basketball is a great sport that I've enjoyed being around and connected with in various degrees. I love it, love it."

"I told them after the Cascade win, you know what's so great about this, I get to come to practice tomorrow," Rady said smiling.

Cloverdale will be playing in its first regional since 1983 and the starters all were excited to be a part of the hysteria.

"It's one of the greatest feelings ever," Neese said. "It's been 24 years for the school, since my dad was a senior and playing."

"It's just awesome to represent Cloverdale. Winning the sectional last week was like a dream come true," Cheatham commented.

"It feels really good to bring it all back to Cloverdale," Dean responded.

"It feels really good," senior Seth Trinkle added.

With all the buzz surrounding the team, it would be easy for young men to lose sight of the things that got them to where they are. Rady helped put things into perspective.

"The important thing is the journey. The bus rides, kidding each other, these are the things the kids have to remember. If it's just the championship these guys remember, then they've missed out on the whole thing."

Neese expressed the feeling of the team best when he responded, "I've pumped. I'm ready to play."

Cloverdale will compete in the Class 2A Regional at Southridge this Saturday at 1 p.m.

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