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Baldinelli Notches First Win as Head Coach

The high school basketball regular season got underway on Monday night for the Chesnee Eagles, and it was met with a lot of fanfare and enthusiasm. There is little doubt that Chesnee is a basketball-loving town. The beautiful Eagle Arena’s home side was packed to the gills with the railing along the wrap-around concourse also lined with folks standing to support their home team. But, more than the typical season opener fan fervor, there was another occasion drawing people out in droves on a cold Monday night. A new beginning. 


The new season brings with it a change in leadership for the program after the departure of Andy Pitt. Back in April, it was announced that Zach Baldinelli was hired as the new Head Boys Basketball Coach at Chesnee. 


If that name sounds familiar, there is a good reason. Coach Baldinelli graduated from Boiling Springs back in 2019 after playing all 4 years as a varsity starter for the Bulldogs and went on to play his college ball at Limestone University before beginning his coaching career a year ago as an assistant under Craig Martin at BSHS.


Baldinelli took over a Chesnee squad that, despite having loads of talent, went through a rough patch in the 2022-2023 season with illnesses and injuries, particularly once they got to their region schedule, managing just 3 region wins and 8 wins in total. 


This season, 2 key transfers highlight the roster in Senior Shooting Guard Brady Poole, and his brother, Junior Shooting Guard Coyie Poole, both of which played at Broome last year and lit up the stat sheets as the biggest bright spots on a squad that also struggled their way to an 8-18 record. 


“Having those 2 guys (the Pooles), you know you always have 2 guys who can put the ball in the basket. They shoot at an incredibly high clip. But, they do other things for us. People don’t realize how well they guard. Defensively, they are very sound and tend to make the right play. They’re 2 pieces we need”, said Baldinelli.


Those 2 were added to what was already a great mix of returning talent that includes senior Guard/Forward Daniel Wease, Sophomore Forward Eli Brown, Junior Forward KJay Proctor, Senior Guard/Forward Kaylob Blanton, and Senior Guard Noah Mvula. 


“Aside from {Brady and Coyie Poole}, we have so many guys that returned this year that already have varsity experience and understand what level you have to play at every time you step on the court and they are great leaders. Having those 2 mixed with the guys that are returning creates the perfect mix”, said Coach Baldinelli of his roster as a whole. 


That perfect blend certainly showed its potential on Monday night as the Eagles hosted cross-border rival R-S Central, and absolutely routed them. 


Chesnee came out of the gate aggressive, forcing turnovers on each of the Hilltoppers’ first 3 possessions, and limiting the amount of looks and shots they could take. In total, Central was held to just 8 shot attempts – 4 from the field and 4 from three point range, only hitting on 3 of those with a pair of 3s and a layup in the 1st quarter for  just 9 points. 


Chesnee more or less had the game put away in the first 5 minutes. The Pooles tallied 19 of the Eagles’ 27 points in the opening frame, with 10 from Coyie and 9 from Brady. 


CHS scored 20 or more points in all but the 3rd quarter, where they fell just short with 19. Central eclipsed the 20 point mark just once, barely missing it in the 3rd with 19, as the Eagles cruised to the 93-58 win to open Baldinelli’s tenure with a bang. 


“It’s a huge relief. Going into this, I definitely had some built up anxiety, but more than anything, a lot of excitement. When the ball was tipped, all the nerves went away and I am just really proud of the way our guys approached today and all the preparation and came out ready to play tonight to get the first win and hopefully the first of many”, said Baldinelli. 


“I thought we executed really well. We shot the ball extremely well. And I was really proud of our energy. I want to play extremely fast. My philosophy is that you want to be the most in-shape team on the court. You want to constantly be running and answer when they score. I thought we executed that perfectly tonight. We sped up the tempo and threw them off. We played extremely fast and we played together”, he later added when asked about his general thoughts on the night.


Brady Poole led the way for CHS with 26 points on 10-24 shooting (4-10 from three point range and 6-14 from the field, helped by a perfect 4-4 start in the 3rd quarter). He was also 4 of 5 from the freethrow line.


Coyie was the 2nd leading scorer with 18 points on 6-10 shooting (3-5 from beyond the arch and 3-4 from the floor) as well as a perfect 3 for 3 at the stripe. Eli Brown was not far behind him with a crisp 17 points on a 6-7 night from the field, 5-7 at the line. Daniel Wease was the lone other Eagle in double figures with 10 points on 3 for 6 shooting and 3-4 from the charity stripe, while Noah Mvula tallied 7 points on a 3-8 night shooting the ball. 


The Eagles will get back to action Tuesday night looking to go to 2-0 as they hit the road to take on Broome with tipoff tentatively set for 7:30 PM.

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