Neese drops 39 as Clovers top Eagles, 65-48
NEW MARKET -- In what was a one-point game at the half, the Cloverdale boys' basketball team took control after the break for a 65-48 win over county rival South Putnam on Friday night at Southmont. This was the third meeting between the two teams with Cloverdale taking all three wins.
The sectional semifinal win gives the Clovers (18-7) a berth in finals, where they will play Monrovia. The Bulldogs (11-14) topped the host Mounties, 49-47, in Friday's early game.
The Clovers defeated the Bulldogs 70-53 in a Dec. 12 meeting at Monrovia.
The first three quarters of the game were low-scoring bouts.
Cooper Neese got the Clovers started early, knocking down three from long range. Nick Winders, who put up 11 points in the game, added three in the first. South Putnam was able to keep pace with CHS due to tough defense that kept the Clovers at bay.
"I thought defensively we did a good job," Eagle coach Greg Dean said. "We worked on the way we would guard Cloverdale and our kids executed the game plan really well. I though we were focused."
Cloverdale came in a full-court press defense to start the game, which gave South Putnam trouble at times. Jimmy Rutter scored two buckets in the first, Allen Plunkett scored a bucket and Thomas Fanning dropped one from long range.
After a 9-9 stalemate, the game stayed close into halftime. It became the Neese versus Plunkett battle as the Eagles continued to make Cloverdale work for everything it got.
"South Putnam controlled the tempo of the game," CHS coach Rady said. "I thought they did a good job of controlling. For us we want to push the ball up the floor. We want to get it and go."
Neeese netted nine points in the second period and Plunkett scored eight, each player taking the ball into the paint and getting rewarded with foul shots.
"Gee whiz, (Plunkett) is good," Rady said. "Putnam County has got a lot of nice players. Fans can really be excited to see that over the next three or four years."
After a 21-20 Cloverdale lead at the half, Plunkett continued to make the most of his opportunities while South Putnam hung in the game with Cloverdale.
The freshman score two from long-range and two from inside the arc, netting all 10 of the Eagles' third-quarter points.
Neese added nine as CHS tried to distance itself as much as it could. Jalen Moore got involved, scoring four and Winders added his second three-pointer.
"Offensively they tried to make the tempo of the game something that suited us," Dean said. "I think for three quarters we did that. But then it changed when Cloverdale upped their pressure a little bit. They started trapping and getting some steals. So we had to play a bit faster."
The faster pace of the game in the fourth suited Cloverdale better as it matched its second and third quarter output, with 28 just in the final quarter.
Moore began to hassle the Eagle ball handlers more and more as he and Neese combined for 23 of the 28 fourth-quarter points, many coming off fast break steals.
"When Jalen and Cooper can push it and get it into the open court I think they are very hard to guard," Rady said. "We were just walking it up in the first half way too much. Even on opposing teams' makes we want to get it out and go. We were able to get that and do a pretty good job in the fourth."
South Putnam finishes the season at 4-19 and will lose a senior class of six Eagles. The big class of seniors will leave behind a young team of talented ballplayers who improved all season and will welcome an eighth-grade team that won the middle school county tournament.
"We have good leadership from our seniors," Dean said. "They aren't real vocal. They are kind if a lead by example kind of group. They always came in and busted their tail. They taught our freshman a lot of stuff. We'll be young next year but hopefully we got some experience that we can put to use next year."
Cloverdale 9 12 16 28 -- 48
S. Putnam 9 11 10 18 -- 65
22-53 12-16 65 (Neese 14-26 6-8 39, Moore 3-14 4-5 11, Winder 4-5 11, Watts 1-2 2, Pfaff 0-4 2-2 2)
Three pt. shots: Neese 5-13, Winders 3-3, Moore 1-5 Reb: Neese 8, Moore 3, Pfaff 7, Winders 1, Hall 6, Wilkes 1 Ast: Moore 3, Pfaff 2 Stl: Moore 5, Winders 1, Neese 4 Blk: Pfaff 1, Hall 3
18-41 7-10 48 (Plunkett 9-16 3-5 24, Rutter 4-9 9, Fanning 3-7 7, McHugh 1-2 1-2 3, Parks 1-1 1-1 3)
Three pt shots: Plunkett 3-5, Fanning 1-2, Rutter1-3 Reb: Rutter 6, Plunkett 4, Long 3, Stewart 3, Fanning 2, Scott 1, McHugh 1 Ast: Long 2, Rutter 1, Plunkett 1 Stl: Fanning 1, Stewart 2, Scott 1, McHugh 1