ROCK HILL — It was the wrong time to hit a dry spell for Nation Ford as the third-ranked South Pointe Stallions held the Falcons scoreless in the final 3 minutes, 8 seconds of the game to squeak out a 54-50 win in the first round of the Class AAAA boys high school basketball playoffs.
The Stallions will now host TL Hanna in the second round. That game is scheduled for Saturday, but may be moved to Friday at 7 p.m., said South Pointe head coach Melvin Watson.
Nation Fords Riley Hilton tied the game at 50 with 3:08 on a lay-up as he led all scorers with 17 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter.
From there, both teams would methodically keep the ball from the other by moving it around trying to set up good shots. South Pointe finally got one as PJ Heath, who scored 10 points, hit a put-back with 42.5 seconds left to give the Stallions a 53-50 lead.
The key to South Pointes win was its execution of the full-court press, which Nation Ford struggled with at times, especially in the fourth quarter, where they turned the ball over six times, compared to just one turnover from the Stallions.
We changed things up a little on the press, Watson said. There was a little more effort from our guys in the second half. The guys werent ready for the season to be over.
South Pointe was led in the fourth quarter by Anthony Johnson, who scored six of his 15 points, including a big dunk on a turnover with about 5:30 left in the game which woke the Stallions crowd up and brought them out of the stands.
Nation Ford led at the half 33-26 as it kept South Pointe at bay by using fast breaks to get easy points. The Falcons didnt hit a field goal until 3:53 left in the second quarter, but once they did, it open a flood gate as they shot 54 percent in the quarter and was a perfect 7-for-7 from the foul line. Nation Ford outscored South Pointe 22-15 in the quarter.
We played well enough to win, we just couldnt get any breaks, said Nation Ford head coach Brian Turner. I cant fault the kids effort. The kids went toe-to-toe with them. They should hold their heads high.
However, that momentum started to get turned in the third quarter as South Pointe slowly chipped away at Nation Fords lead.
In the third quarter, South Pointe shot 46 percent, while Nation Ford struggled to hit just two shots on eight attempts and turned the ball over seven times.
Usually a run-and-gun-style team, the Stallions slowed things down to a crawl and started to press Nation Ford in the third period.
As the Stallions slowly chipped away at Nation Ford, South Pointes Tyreece Brice dropped in eight of his 16 points and hit two key 3-pointers in the third quarter. Brices play allowed South Pointe to end the third quarter on a 5-0 run going up 41-40 at the end of the period as the Falcons turned the ball over on two straight possessions.
Nation Ford kept right on the heels of South Pointe to start the fourth as both teams would trade baskets on several occasions. The game looked as if it would come down to the final possession, but after Hilton hit his last basket of the season, the Stallions would close things out with defense and by scoring the final four points.
South Pointe 54,
Nation Ford 50
Nation Ford Riley Hilton 17, Carson Smith 12, Justin Sergent 8, Ben Sidebothom 5, Jordan Causey 4, Nick Turner 2, DeSean McCain 2.
South Pointe Tyreece Brice 16, Anthony Johnson 15, PJ Heath 10, Tay Blake 3, Chris Frasier 3, Isaiah Rodney 3, Montez McCullough 2, Marveon Mobley 2.
3-pointers Nation Ford 3 (Smith 2, Sidebothom 1), South Pointe 5 (Brice 4, Frasier 1).
Team fouls: Nation Ford 15, South Pointe 16.
Fouled out: Justin Sergent (NF).
Records: Nation Ford 9-16, South Pointe 21-1.