A costly foul called with just about six seconds left sent Clovers Taylor Hoover to the line where he hit two free throws and sunk Nation Ford 49-47 Saturday night.
The loss by the Falcons put them at 4-6 in Region III and 8-12 overall as the hunt for a playoff spot heads into the final two weeks of the regular season.
We slept walked our way through 28 minutes and played hard for about four minutes, Nation Ford head coach Brian Turner lamented. [Clover] played a hard and scrappy game. They got most of the loose balls.
Clover also converted the majority of its free throws, going 23-for-32 at the line and 13-for-18 in the fourth quarter after carrying a 33-24 lead into the final period.
We hit some big ones, Clover head coach Bailey Jackson said. Free throws had been our Achilles heel, but it was a good night. We gutted it out.
On the other end of things, Nation Ford struggled with turnovers and, despite catching up with the Blue Eagles in the fourth quarter using the three-pointer, the Falcons shot just 7-of-12 from the foul line.
Nation Ford opened the fourth quarter on a 7-3 run and pulled within five at 36-31 and a three-pointer by senior Justin Sergent got the Falcons within one at 38-37. Nation Ford hit eight from downtown four of them in the fourth quarter as they outscored Clover 23-16.
Sergent hit a game-tying trey that put the score at 47 all, but a foul was called on the inbounds pass against Nation Ford, giving Clover the opportunity to ice the game at the line.
Both teams started the second half slowly, but Clover seemed to stay a step ahead of the Falcons.
Clover outscored Nation Ford 11-6 in the third quarter as the Falcons hit just 2-of-11 shots.
Clover dominated the game on the inside, going for the high percentage shot most of the game. Clover hit just two three-pointers in the game and used backdoor cuts and shots in the lane to create an inside presence that Nation Ford couldnt compete with for the majority of the game.
Clover was also able to muscle its way to second chance shots and out rebounded Nation Ford for the majority of the first half.
Nation Ford was led by junior Riley Hilton, who scored 10 points, and Sergent, who scored nine.
Clover was led by Alex Thompson and Hoover, both of whom had 12 points each.
Lady Falcons struggle on offense
In girls action, the Lady Blue Eagles coasted to a 46-30 win over the Lady Falcons as Nation Ford struggled offensively in the game.
Nation Ford had just eight first half points and was outscored 21-10 in the third quarter as Clover blew the game open.
Junior Taylor Yarborough led the lady Falcons with 13 points, but Nation Ford got some serious help from its taller players, particularly Liz Ellwood and Aja Hall, who combined for 12 points. Ellwood had eight and Hall had four.
We struggled offensively especially early, Nation Ford head coach Mike Smith said. But we got balanced in the second half. I am proud of their effort that they gave. Their effort is going to be rewarded down the line.
Both teams started extremely slow as evidenced by the first quarter score of 2-0 in favor of Clover. Nation Ford went 0-for-6 in the opening quarter and Clover went 1-for-14.
Things started to pick up in the second quarter as Clover shot 70 percent and got the 14-8 advantage. Clovers height aided its cause as the Lady Blue Eagles out rebounded Nation Ford and got the breakaways in the third quarter to extend the lead in the second half.
The Lady Blue Eagles opened the second half on a 6-3 run and started to pull away as they forced Nation Ford into six third-quarter turnovers.
Nation Ford hit just 3-of-13 shots in the third quarter, while Clover shot 10-of-15 from the field, most of those coming on fast breaks as they went up 37-18 after the third quarter.