ROCK HILL — It was quite a birthday for South Pointe forward Anthony Johnson.
He celebrated by scoring the games final five points in regulation to allow South Pointe to rally from an eight-point deficit with less than a minute remaining to force overtime against Nation Ford.
The Stallions momentum carried over in the extra session for a thrilling 74-68 home victory in Region 3-AAAA action Tuesday.
Nation Ford, which led the majority of the contest, appeared to put the game on ice when forward Carson Smith sank two free throws, and then made one-of-two attempts with 51.4 seconds remaining.
While Smith was fouled, a technical was whistled against the Stallions, and Falcons guard Nick Turner sank another free throw for a 64-56 lead. Following the technical free throw, Nation Ford still maintained possession, and only needed to protect the ball and convert free throw attempts to secure the road upset.
Instead, the Stallions stepped up their defensive pressure and forced an errant pass. South Pointe guard Tay Blake, who scored 15 points, drained a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to five with 38.3 seconds remaining.
Following a timeout, the South Pointe defense caused another turnover. After a missed layup and a loose-ball scramble, the ball ended up in the hands of Johnson. He launched a deep 3-point attempt while falling out of bounds.
The ball swished through the net to cut the deficit to two, 64-62, with 15 seconds remaining. After another timeout, the Stallions caused another turnover on an errant inbound pass. The ball once again ended up in the hands of Johnson, who immediately attacked with a slashing layup attempt.
The layup was missed, but Johnson was fouled and awarded two shots with 12.4 ticks remaining. He sank both to tie the contest at 64-64. Nation Ford had a shot at the win, but Turners shot at the buzzer bounced off the back iron as time expired.
Once in the extra session, the Stallions momentum continued. Their defense continued to cause disarray for the Falcons, who were only able to attempt three shots. Meanwhile, South Pointe turned those turnovers into offense.
PJ Heath powered inside for convert an offensive rebound. Blake, Cal Leslie, and Anthony Johnson each netted one-of-two free throw attempts on the next three possessions, putting South Pointe in control, 69-64, with 1:10 remaining.
Johnson then caught an inbound pass and slashed for a layup for a 71-64 lead at the 45.3 mark. Jordan Causey ended the Nation Ford drought with a jumper, but South Pointe went to the line and sank three-of-four attempts down the stretch to pull out the dramatic victory.
We have been down like that before, Johnson said of his team trailing by eight with less than a minute remaining. What we did was to play hard defensively and continue to push the ball.
Stallions coach Melvin Watson, whose team improved to 17-1 and 9-1 in league play, credited Nation Ford for a solid game plan, but also commended his players on huge defensive plays down the stretch.
Coach (Brian) Turner had his team to come in prepared, said Watson. Our rotation was slow on offense and we did not pay attention to detail early. We did not execute well in the first half, but that was due to Nation Ford and the way they played.
But give credit to our assistant coaches, who changed up the defenses.
Meanwhile, Turner said that everything worked well except the finish.
I always tell these guys that they can play with anyone in the state; to come on the road and play the number four team in the state and lead wire-to-wire, we did just that, Turner said. The only thing that we were unable to do was to protect the ball. We could not catch the ball and give ourselves opportunities to go to the line and win the game.
South Pointe 74,
Nation Ford 68 (OT)
Nation Ford Nick Turner 11, Ryan Tipton 7, Carson Smith 17, Riley Hilton 10, Jordan Causey 4, Hank Tuipuloto 4, Ben Sidenbothaum 14, Daisean McCain 2.
South Pointe PJ Heath 16, Tyreece Brice 2, Anthony Johnson 18, Tay Blake 15, Dylan Burton 2, Devan Pearson 2, Cal Leslie 1, Isiah Rodney 10, Montez McCullough 2, Marveon Mobley 6..
3-pointers Nation Ford 6 (Turner 2, Smith 2, Sidenbothaum 2), South Pointe 4 (Blake 2, Johnson 2). Team fouls Nation Ford 19, South Pointe 19. Fouled out None.
Records: Nation Ford 8-13, 4-7 in Region 3-AAAA; South Pointe 17-1, 9-1.