John Gardner is trying to turn a promising Clinton High girls’ basketball into a good one.
The Red Devils made progress last year and have doubled the previous season’s victories in each of Gardner’s two years on the bench, but Region 3-3A is where the reigning state champion, Newberry, resides.
In the season just completed, Clinton earned a playoff berth by finishing tied for second place in the region, but entered the postseason with the third seed, after a play-in loss to Chapman, and fell to another powerhouse, Pendleton. Clinton’s record was 12-16.
The squad just came back from two days, June 29-30, at the University of South Carolina’s camp, where they worked out and played against other, mostly unfamiliar programs, at the Gamecocks’ practice facility, the cavernous old Carolina Coliseum.
“We’ve had a hard time getting the team together this summer,” Gardner said. “We had players at Girls’ State. We’ve had some injuries. We decided to go camp and took 11 players down there.
“It was a good two days. We got a chance to compete against teams we don’t normally see. It was the first time we had the majority of our players. We played some close games, and it was good to see how they reacted to those situations.”
The Red Devils return two all-region players, De’Shanti Watts and Savanna Campbell.
“We’ve got a lot back, but we’re adding some nice new pieces, as well,” Gardner said.
An eighth grader, Taneal Evans, is being ticketed for the varsity. A welcome addition is Aaliyah Johnston, who was a member of the CHS track team’s state-title winning 4x100 relay team. Gardner praised the play of another holdover from last year’s squad, Terriauna Bennett.
“We worked on the basics, broke in some new pieces for next season’s team and got to play in an impressive environment,” Gardner said. “It turned out good.”