Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 9:57 a.m.
The gym wasn’t full, but it’s a large gym. The first round of the Class 3A boys’ basketball playoffs matched Clinton, the top seed from Region 3, against Indian Land, the fourth seed from Region 4. More will undoubtedly show up on Friday, when Pendleton visits for round two.
The Red Devils (19-3, 10-0 region) led by as many as 20 points but twice allowed the Warriors (6-16, 3-5) to creep to within six. Meanwhile, Pendleton was dismissing Emerald, 72-64. In the second round, the brackets shift, which, without delving into specifics, is why Indian Land arrived in Clinton from the east and Pendleton will sweep in from the northwest.
Exciting to watch is this surprising Clinton team, coached by Eddie Romines for the first time. I’m not but a few years older than Eddie. When we were growing up, I’d estimate that 90 percent of the times I saw him, he was shooting baskets and scaring up pickup games at the Clinton Family YMCA. When Clinton promoted him to head boys’ coach this year, I knew the choice was dedicated to the game. Eddie is a mild-mannered fellow right up to about the time the opening tip-off is tossed. It’s unusual for an opening toss-off to be tipped.
On Tuesday night, I wasn’t writing about the game on deadline, but I did hang out at the scorer’s table for a while when the teams were warming up. I was talking to Buddy Bridges about the late Dick Vaughan, and to John Gardner about it being impossible for one man to operate the whole scoreboard while keeping the score right and making sure the clock was running when it was supposed to be and not when it wasn’t. Eddie walked by and, not surprisingly, I said something profound like, “Hey, Eddie.”
He walked about five yards, when it apparently occurred to him that I had spoken in his direction. He reversed his course, “about face,” and came back to shake hands and hear me say he didn’t have to do it because I knew he had a ballgame and was tense the way coaches get before them.
And, besides, this was the playoffs, and playoffs are thoroughly dangerous affairs.
It’s been many years since I’ve seen a Clinton basketball team that was this much fun to watch. I probably missed a few possibilities while I was off watching cars go around and around.
Every player Clinton puts on the floor is athletic. It’s a ball-hawking team, one that takes chances on defense and monitors the passing lanes like U-boats preying on an Allied convoy. On offense, the Red Devils are fast-paced and unselfish. Last night, four scored in double figures: Jalen Carter 19, Kiah Young 18, Zay Hurley 17 and Tymori Tribble 15.
Indian Land was outmanned but bold in the “we got nothing to lose” mold. The Warriors committed 32 fouls. Four fouled out. Thirty-one of Clinton’s 80 points were free throws. They had free shots at 51.
When it was over, I milled around, chatting to Donte Reeder about playing football next year at Alderson Broaddus, and kidding Tribble about committing consecutive turnovers, the former on a 10-second violation and the latter on a five. It was a brief lapse. I think the hectic pace might have gotten the referee’s adrenaline flowing and his approximation of a second accelerating.
Eddie was saying the effort was good but the man-to-man defense fallible when I walked by. I figured I could write this without an in-depth interview.
I watched the game from about 10 rows up, surrounded by people I’ve known for at least three decades and, in most cases, all my life.
This is a football state, and Clinton is a football town. Basketball has a hard time going up unless football is going down. At the moment, football is edging back up but isn’t there yet, and by there, in these parts, it means competing for state championships.
If there is a void, then baseball a spring ago and basketball at present have filled it.
Folks are starting to notice this little team that plays a different kind of ball.
Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.
If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.
Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.
Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.
Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.
The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.
The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.
Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.
Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).