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Chesnee Back in Win Column

Since dominating their season opener against R-S Central back on November 28th, Chesnee had since went 1-3, knocking off Broome 78-63, and then dropping the 3 following games – 2 of them by just a score.


They fell to Woodruff 61-60 and East Rutherford 82-79 before Broome got some revenge in a 75-66 decision in the Eagles’ last matchup coming into Wednesday night’s road trip to Inman to take on the Chapman Panthers.


On the other side of this matchup, the Panthers got off to a 2-1 start to the season, opening with a 76-72 win over Belton-Honea Path and following it up with a 62-53 victory over Walhalla before falling to Palmetto  79-73.


Looking at those numbers, it is evident that both of these 2 programs, who had a tough season a year ago, are both showing some firm signs of improvement over the first 2 weeks.


Both Chesnee and Chapman have rosters that are experienced. The Panthers have 4 seniors, 4 juniors, 4 sophomores, and 1 freshman. Most notably, Senior Guard Shawn Cunningham. If that name sounds familiar – it should be. He is a 2-sport standout, also excelling as a receiver on the football team. However, the Panthers would have to find a way to win without Cunningham, as he is playing in the North/South Game this weekend in Myrtle Beach.


Of course, Chesnee features a roster full of talent, highlighted by the brothers Brady and Coyie Poole on top of Kaylob Blanton, Eli Brown, Daniel Wease, and Noah Mvula. They are a tough bunch to beat, especially when they play together as a unit as well as they did Wednesday night.


In the early going, Chapman struggled to defend against Brady Poole in the paint. Honestly, with a player his caliber, you almost have to let him do his thing or make him earn his points by fouling him frequently. Poole put up 9 points in the first quarter on 3-4 shooting, including a perfect 3-3 from the floor. Daniel Wease followed it with 6 points of his own on 2-3 shooting and a perfect 2-2 from the line.


On the flipside, Chesnee played stifling defense in the paint, forcing Chapman to have to pass around and settle for a lot of threes. They shot 5-8 from beyond the arch, but their undoing was that they were 1-6 in the paint, leading to just a 20-17 deficit at the end of the opening 8 minutes.


Chapman continued to hang even with Chesnee thanks to efficient passing and more success from beyond the arch, going 5-7 in the 2nd frame. But, even more impressively was how it was how the Panthers had 7 different players in the scoring column at the break. They were efficient and shared the ball well. At the break, they held a 37-35 lead.


The 2nd half got off to the same kind of start with both squads maintaining the same game plan and continuing to trade blows, but it finally flipped in the waning moments of the 3rd quarter. The Eagles went on a 16-6 run that was split between all their stars. Coyie Poole finished the 3rd by starting a 4-4 streak from three point range, giving him 6 in the frame. Daniel Wease also added 6 with a layup and an and-one as well as a 3. Eli Brown and Brady Poole each tabbed 2 in that stretch, making for a 60-49 lead heading to the final 8 for Chesnee.


They picked up right where they left off in the 4th quarter as Brady Poole heated up and hit back to back three pointers. His brother also drained a pair of long balls, which combined with a layup by Daniel Wease, made for the 2nd longest run of the game, this time an 8-0 streak that more or less sealed this game.


“In the first half, they made 10 threes. So we had to adjust a little bit defensively. We needed to get out on shooters more, so we stopped helping off the corners as much. But the biggest thing is offensively, we moved the basketball. We played together and took the right shots. In the first half, we took some good ones. But, in the 2nd half, we moved the ball 2 or 3 different times to get it to our shooters. In short, we just played together”, said Chesnee Head Coach Zach Baldinelli.


Chesnee went on to win 78-58 to improve to 3-3 on the young season, led by Brady Poole with 25 points. Three other Eagles were in double figures. Daniel Wease tallied 18 points while Coyie Poole logged 17. Eli Brown added 11 of his own.


As Coach Baldinelli put it, that’s as good an effort as you can ask for, and he was proud of it.


“We won our first 2 games last week and then we went to Woodruff and lost by a point, went to East Rutherford and lost by 2, and then Broome gave us the last punch in the last 2:00 of the game, and ended up beating us.That’s what makes me most proud as a coach. We lost 3 close games in a row, but it did not phase the kids. We just keep plugging and plugging and tonight we came out and played together and got it done against a really good Chapman team”, said Baldinelli.


Obviously, the Poole brothers are a huge key to the team’s success. But, more impressively, their inside presences, Daniel Wease and Eli Brown, have been major contributors for them, which drew high praise from Zach.


“They had a huge impact (the Poole Brothers). Offensively, they’re very good players. But, what people don’t realize is that defensively, they do some really good things as well. Brady Poole is playing about 32 minutes every single game {AKA every minute} and defensively, he does not let up. They have a huge impact on our team. But, they (Wease and Brown) also play a ton of minutes. I put so much on those guys to rebound and Daniel and Eli have been so physical. They’ve boxed out and rebounded so well for us. Daniel is averaging a double-double and Eli is averaging near a double-double. They play hard the whole game and you know you’re gonna get 32 minutes out of them. They bring an energy to our team that nobody else really does.”


Chesnee will now set their sights on another border rivalry game this Friday night as they go on the road to battle the Chase Trojans. Tip off is set for 7:30 PM.


Chapman will host the Palmetto Mustangs Friday with tip set tentatively for 7:30 PM.

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