FORT MILL — A constant low block offensive presence allowed the Nation Ford Falcons to outlast the Clover Blue Eagles for a 57-52 win on Friday night.
The win gave the Falcons their first Region III-AAAA win of the year and dropped Clover to 0-2 in the same region.
Nation Ford used its big bodies down in the low post to get easy looks at the basket as Riley Hilton and Carson Smith, both over six feet, led the Falcons in scoring. Hilton had 19, a team-high, while Smith had 12.
“We were more patient tonight,” said Nation Ford coach Brian Turner, who once coached Clover coach Bailey Jackson. “They gave us a good punch to start the third and then we came up with a six point run. But we played smart. It was a good solid win tonight.”
Both teams traded 3-pointers to start the fourth quarter. Clover cut Nation Ford’s lead to three at 43-40, but the Falcons’ opportunities at the basket allowed them to get to the foul line early in the quarter.
Nation Ford’s Smith came alive in the fourth quarter scoring six of the Falcons’ first nine points.
Despite staying within striking distance, Clover struggled on second chance opportunities when it counted most.
“We are learning as we go,” said Jackson, who is two wins away from 200 for his head coaching career. “We did a great job coming back, but then we relaxed. And against a well-coached team you can’t relax. We are going to be alright. It just takes time.”
Clover started the second half on an 8-0 run and cut an 11-point gap to just three, two minutes into the third quarter.
Clover’s Bryce Allen hit three 3-pointers during the rally to get the Blue Eagles back in the game.
Nation Ford missed its first three shots prompting Turner to take a timeout and try to regroup.
After the timeout, the Falcons were able to get their mojo back as Justin Sergent scored two quick baskets and Nation Ford caused several turnovers allowing them to go up by six points at 38-32.
In the first half, both teams started slow, but midway through the opening quarter, Nation Ford went on a 6-0 run to go up 16-7 after the first quarter.
Hilton scored nine of the Falcons’ 16 points and was big on second chance opportunities as he stayed around the block getting several chances.
Nation Ford kept the pressure on in the second quarter as Smith would get to the basket for a three-point play early in the period.
The Falcons’ defense kept Clover beyond the arc for most of the first half, and when they dropped the ball inside, Nation Ford collapsed on the block to suffocate the Blue Eagles’ game.
Hilton continued to dominate the block for Nation Ford while Clover struggled on the other end of the court.
The Blue Eagles’ only bright spot in the first half was Taylor Hoover, who found his way to the basket more than any other Clover player. Hoover led all scorers with 20 points.
Nation Ford’s lead stayed around 10 points for most of the first half. Clover’s Alex Thompson hit two baskets to cut the Falcons lead to eight points at 28-20 with about 90 seconds left.
Nation Ford 57, Clover 52
Clover – Taylor Hoover 20, Bryce Allen 12, Alex Thompson 8, Arnaldo Toro 6, Jevon Blake 3, Markevious Cole 2, RJ Moore 1. Nation Ford – Riley Hilton 19, Carson Smith 12, Nick Turner 9, DeSean McCain 7, Jordan Causey 5, Brandon Cureton 3, Hank Tuipulotu 2. 3-pointers: Clover – 8 (Allen 4, Hoover 2, Blake 1, Thompson 1), Nation Ford – 4 (Cureton 1, Turner 1, Smith 1, Hilton 1).Team fouls: Clover 19, Nation Ford 13.
Records: Clover 2-4, 0-2 Region III-AAAA; Nation Ford 4-3, 1-1 Region III-AAAA.