2017-03-14 / Front Page

Clovers conclude run to regional with 67-59 loss to Northeastern

Michael Stanley

Cloverdale head coach Patrick Rady talks with his team during a timeout at Greenfield-Central Saturday during regional action. (Staff Photo) Cloverdale head coach Patrick Rady talks with his team during a timeout at Greenfield-Central Saturday during regional action. (Staff Photo) Cloverdale didn’t cut down any nets Saturday at Greenfield-Central, but the Clovers valiant effort at a comeback against the athletic Northeastern Knights didn’t end until the final horn sounded in a 67-59 loss.

The hundreds of Cloverdale fans cramming the bleachers wouldn’t have expected any less. So there was little wonder why fans stuck around to provide their team one last round of applause upon exiting the locker room.

The Clovers got hot early in the first, using a pair of long three’s from standout guard Cooper Neese, a three from Nick Winders and baskets from Jake Wilkes and Jalen Moore to jump out on the Knights, 16-11 after the first eight minutes.

Cloverdale coach Patrick Rady, though, took an opportunity to give Neese a breather on the bench. During his absence from the floor, the Knights went on a 5-0 run to end the first and scored 21 in a row to go up 27-16 with just three minutes to play in the half.

A free throw from Jalen Moore got the Clovers offense back in gear to cut the Knights halftime lead to six, 31-25.

“They were in a box-and-one, and we prepared for that and attacked it very well early. They made some adjustments and Jalen got going, then they went to a triangle and two,” Rady said of the Knights’ defensive effort against his guards. “We came back and took the lead by three; I thought our defense picked up. We were concerned about Tyler Smith in transition, but I thought our press got him to slow down a little bit and forced them to turn the ball over some. I thought our full court defense got us back into the game.”

Moore scorched the nets in the third to lead a comeback effort, outscoring Northeastern 20-13 in the frame. The Clovers’ efforts cut the Knights’ lead to three, 38-35 and a pair of Neese free throws a few possessions later tied the game at 40-40. Moore connected from beyond the arc to give the Clovers a 43-40 lead and entered the fourth up 45-44. Moore led all scorers with 31.

Neese’s all-state teammate Tyler Smith, though, scored five in a row to start the fourth, giving the Knights a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Neese and Moore were the lone scorers for the Clovers in the fourth, with seven each and the Butler-bound star ended with a three.

The somber post-game locker room was full of future Clovers, tears in their eyes after watching the final game for Neese in green and white.

“When you have to say good-bye to seniors, especially the seniors we have this year (Neese and Seth Pfaff), who I’ve been with for a lot of games, it was a memorable run. Obviously our goal was to finish at Bankers Life getting some nets, but that’s life; you don’t always get what you want, but you hope what you do and in the journey that you had, that you learn from the things and it makes you a tougher person,” coach Patrick Rady said. “Cooper has had a great career and sometimes you do get overlooked, but I thought Seth fought some adversity early in the year, and he matured as a man and an as a player. Today we were able to see it; they didn’t get the rebounds like they did last year, they didn’t get the ball in the paint like they did last year and I’m very proud of Seth Pfaff. I hope he uses that to become even a better man and he takes that into life. To Cooper, it’s just been special. It’s not what he accomplished; it’s the person, that’s what I’ll remember.”

Rady also emphasized the special aspect of coaching Neese had little to do with his status as the school’s all-time leading scorer or seventh rank among Indiana High School players in history.

“It’s very special, but not because he’s a top ten scorer, it’s because of the kid he is. That is what I will remember, just from the personal relationship I’ve had to his faith that he has, to what he’s meant to my family,” Rady said of Neese. “It’s more than a player coach relationship, what he’s meant to our community, our school; he loves Cloverdale, he gives everything that he’s got on the floor. He’s played in pain before. He has given everything he has to our school and our community, that’s why I’m proud to coach number 11.”

Rady also spoke about what the Butler Bulldogs will receive from the incoming freshman.

“He’s going to compete, he’s the epitome of the ‘Butler Way,’ they are getting a fierce competitor,” Rady added. “Sometimes he’s labeled as just a shooter, but I thought today he did a good job on Smith to start the game. He wants the defensive match-up, he loves to play defense. The bottom line, though, is he loves to win and he loves March, and I think Butler loves March, too.”

Much like most others in green on Saturday, coach Rady struggled to hold back his tears.

“Take a look in our locker room right now; we have fifth and sixth graders, seventh and eighth graders sitting behind our bench, dreaming of putting on that Cloverdale uniform,” he said in a cracking voice. “This is what Indiana basketball is about, bringing a community together, just like the movie ‘Hoosiers.’ Coach Karl Turk would remind the kids, in 49 states it’s just basketball, but this is Indiana. It’s been a program changer; kids want to be a part of this program. It’s amazing what sports can do; sports can really transcend life. When a group of young kids, blended together with different personalities can come together for the cause and bring a unity out there. Where else can you get that in our society? Here you have 12 kids that brought a community out for one cause, for the Town of Cloverdale, so that’s priceless, you can’t put into words how special that is.”

Moving into the offseason, coach Rady hopes his 2017-2018 Clovers are impacted by the ‘Jalen Moore Effect.’

“Jalen Moore is there every morning to shoot baskets; we have to kick him out at night after practice. All of a sudden, he’s like the pied piper, now Nick Winders started coming in and other guys. When you leave some place, you want to leave a legacy and leadership isn’t always what you say, it’s what you do, and Jalen has been a leader as a junior, just for how much time he’s put in. He’s starting to encourage, and we’re ready for Jalen now to be that leader. Cooper has passed the torch to him, and he’s already got a head start on that. To our fans, we just want to say ‘Thank you, ’ and we will continue working for them.”

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