FORT MILL — With the final Region III-AAAA playoff lock on the line, Nation Ford went go into a hostile environment at Fort Mill High and swept the season series against their rivals 63-59, clinching a spot in the playoffs.
Nation Fords Riley Hilton took his game to another level in the fourth quarter to lead the Falcons, scoring 12 of his 23 points down the stretch.
The kids played hard, said Falcons head coach Michael Tew. Riley was a work horse. Anytime you can get a win with this rivalry, its big for us.
Nation Ford will most likely open against Dorman on Thursday. Fort Mill finished fifth in the region and still has an outside shot at getting into the playoffs through one of two at-large bids.
Fort Mills Liam OBoyle would tie the game at 42 with about seven minutes to go shortly after the start of the fourth quarter. From there, Nation Ford would go on a 5-0 run to go up 47-42, with the help of a three-point play from Mike Campbell.
The Falcons would continue to go inside and make trips to the foul line in extending their lead. Fort Mill would start to apply more pressure defensively, but couldnt get the stops it needed.
They made more plays than us, said Jackets head coach Dwayne Hartsoe. They have been the better team both times we played them.
The Jackets opened the second half with a steal and a basket by Matt Tillery. Fort Mill started to push the pace and widened the gap on a Mike Scurlock 3-pointer.
Nation Ford started to struggle with control and turnovers led to points for Fort Mill. But the Falcons Hank Tuipulotu tied the game at 33 and Nation Ford then took the lead on the next possession after a Jackets turnover. The Falcons started going inside to Hilton, who made Fort Mill pay.
Fort Mill struggled from the field for most of the first half, while Nation Ford shot exactly 50 percent (10-20). The difference in the first half was the Jackets foul shooting as they hit five of its six shots from the charity stripe, while Nation Ford took just one foul shot in the first half, missing it.
Holmes tied the game at 13 for the Falcons just after the start of the second quarter with his second trey of the game. That 3-pointer started a 5-0 start to the period for Nation Ford. Fort Mills Devan Thacker would come back to tie the game up with a slashing layup.
However, the enthusiasm was short lived for Fort Mill as Holmes hit another 3-pointer. But like any good prize fight, the team started to slug it out, going back-and-fourth trading baskets.
Fort Mill came out firing up shots, but struggled to hit any, while Nation Ford was slow and more methodical in moving the ball around. The Falcons did struggle early with turnovers.
Nation Ford opened the game on a 5-0 run, before a Cory Wills hoop ended that for Fort Mill. Wills in fact got so hot in the first quarter he scored the Jackets first six points of the game.
That run by Wills was part of a 10-0 run by Fort Mill. Nation Ford got right back in the game with a 3-pointer by Holmes.
Nation Ford 63, Fort Mill 59
Nation Ford Riley Hilton 23, Mike Campbell 13, Cameron Holmes 9, Desean McCain 7, Dalton Rose 5, Elijah Jennings 2, Hank Tuipulotu 2, John Kemp 2. Fort Mill Cory Wills 13, Liam OBoyle 9, Mike Scurlock 7, Mitchell Johnsen 7, Jordan Struve 5, Brandon Plyler 5, Devan Thacker 5, Tanner Mitchell 4, Matt Tillery 4.
3-pointers: Nation Ford 5 (Holmes 3, Campbell 2), Fort Mill 6 (OBoyle 3, Scurlock 1, Johnsen 1, Struve 1). Team fouls Nation Ford 19, Fort Mill 26. Fouled out Devan Thacker (FM).
Records: Nation Ford 13-12, 7-7 Region III-AAAA; Fort Mill 11-13, 6-8 Region III-AAAA.