FORT MILL — It wasn’t how the Nation Ford Falcons started but how they finished as they rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Fort Mill 63-58.
The play of the seniors led both Nation Ford and Fort Mill on Friday night. Playing from behind most of the game, Nation Ford tied things up in the fourth quarter at 49-49 on a basket from senior Mike Campbell, who led with 17 points.
The Falcons started the quarter trailing and quickly got a basket from senior Riley Hilton, who also had 17 points, as Nation Ford had a 6-0 run.
Fort Mill struggled early on in the fourth quarter at both the foul line and from the field. But midway through the quarter, the Jackets went on a 6-0 run to get a 58-53 lead with 3:37 left in the game.
The Falcons stayed within striking distance the entire quarter and got a one-point lead on free-throws by Campbell with 1:13 left, which Hilton added to later at the charity stripe.
“The way they (Fort Mill) were shooting in the first quarter, I was afraid we were going to get blown out,” said Falcons head coach Michael Tew. “But I am so proud of them. They kept digging and kept fighting back.”
Nation Ford came out in the second half as the aggressor, starting the third quarter on a 5-2 run to pull within six points of Fort Mill.
Fort Mill’s 3-point shooting kept them with a mildly comfortable lead for part of the game.
Jackets’ senior Mike Scurlock led Fort Mill’s shooting from beyond the arc, hitting two critical ones in the third quarter to push Fort Mill’s lead to 42-34. With those two 3-pointers, the momentum shifted back the Jackets’ way, but Nation Ford stayed close enough to make things interesting. Scurlock led Fort Mill with 19 points, including five 3-pointers.
Nation Ford cut a 13-point difference to just 10 as Campbell hit a much-needed 3-pointer for the Falcons near the start of the second quarter. The Falcons continued to chip away, opening the quarter on a 10-2 run, as Campbell came up big in the run before a Fort Mill timeout.
The Jackets struggled to get off just two shots in the first three minutes of the period. Fort Mill started warming up, which was enough to keep Nation Ford aggressive on the offensive side of things as well.
Scurlock and Jordan Struve each hit 3-pointers to extend the Jackets’ lead to make it a nine-point game at 31-23. Nation Ford senior Dalton Rose got hot in the second quarter and hit critical shots when needed as he scored nine of his 13 points in the period.
Fort Mill took command early in the opening quarter as they jumped out to an 8-3 lead with the help of 3-pointers from Scurlock and Liam O’Boyle.
But after a timeout by Nation Ford, both teams started trading 3-pointers. Fort Mill’s offense early on went straight at the Falcons as they drove hard to the basket.
Defensively, Fort Mill tried keeping Nation Ford out of the paint by making them take mid-range jumpers, of which they missed the majority. Hilton tried to take command for the Falcons but was kept out of the lane, where he does the majority of damage for Nation Ford.
Fort Mill hit 4-of-8 3-pointers in the opening quarter as part of an 8-for-14 start from the field. For the first half, Fort Mill shot better than 50 percent from the field.
Fort Mill 41, Nation Ford 34: With one of its best squads since Fort Mill split to form Nation Ford, the Jackets came in looking to get back on track after dropping their first Region III-AAAA game of the season earlier in the week to Lancaster. They did just that as Fort Mill escaped the Falcons.
Nation Ford was without senior star Taylor Yarborough, still out nursing an ankle injury, and senior Aja Hall, out with a knee injury.
Nation Ford chipped away at Fort Mill’s lead in the fourth quarter slowly as the Jackets struggled on their opportunities to score. However, the Jackets got the free-throws they needed down the stretch to close the game out. Fort Mill was led by Sharae Redmond with 10 points, and Dani Shaddix led the Falcons with 11 points.
Fort Mill came out in the second half holding a slim three-point lead. Nation Ford had four turnovers within the first three minutes of the second half, but the Jackets didn’t take advantage as they hit just one of their first five shots.
The Falcons’ Alixis Roccia hit a 3-pointer at the 4:20 mark to pull the game within two for Nation Ford, and Chynna Crawford tied it up to pull the Falcons ahead on a three-point play on the next possession.
Fort Mill got an important 3-pointer from Kimber Haley with about two minutes left in the quarter to give the Jackets a 25-21 lead.
Each team played the other tight to start the second quarter. Nation Ford got a lot of inside looks in the paint but struggled to hit a shot in the early going.
The Jackets were able to get turnovers from Nation Ford but, like their counterparts, couldn’t convert.
Fort Mill started gaining some momentum on mid-range shots from Eliza Denmeade, while the Falcons’ shots wouldn’t fall. Because neither team was able to handle the ball well, Nation Ford kept it close. The Falcons hit just two of 17 shots in the second quarter, but it was the mid-range game that allowed Fort Mill to pull ahead.
Both squads had early looks in the first quarter, but both struggled to convert. Fort Mill missed from outside, while the Falcons struggled to convert from inside.
Roccia finally broke a scoreless tie with two free-throws about three minutes into the game. Fort Mill got on the board at 4:35 left in the opening period with a Redmond hoop.
Nation Ford gave Fort Mill extra possessions with early turnovers. The Falcons switched to a press early on to try to keep the Jackets at bay. The turnovers got contagious as Fort Mill started turning over the ball, which led to two straight hoops from Nation Ford.