FORT MILL — With the final Region 3-AAAA playoff lock on the line, Nation Ford would go into a hostile environment at Fort Mill High and sweep the season series against their rivals 63-59 clinching a spot in the playoffs.
Nation Ford's Riley Hilton took his game to another level in the fourth quarter to lead the Falcons, by scoring 12 of his 23 points in the game.
"The kids played hard," said Falcons head coach Michael Tew. "Riley was a work horse. Anytime you can get a win with this rivalry, it's 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 Mill's Liam O'Boyle 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 its lead. Fort Mill would start to apply more pressure defensively, but couldn't get the stops they needed.
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 controlling the ball and turnovers led to extra points from Fort Mill.
Nation Ford's Hank Tuipulotu tied the game at 33 and theFalcons would take the lead on the next possession after a Jackets turnover. The Falcons started to take control going inside to Hilton, who started to make 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.
However, the enthusiasm was short lived for Fort Mill as Holmes would hit another 3-pointer. But like any good prize fight, each team would start 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.
Wills led Fort Mill with 13 points. 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 O'Boyle 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 (O'Boyle 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.
Fort Mill girls top Nation Ford
A tightly contested game came down to a slow and methodical fourth quarter from both Nation Ford and Fort Mill girl's squads.
In the end it came down to who made their free throws and Fort Mill senior Arianna Grevious hit two key ones with about four seconds left to seal the 34-33 win for the Lady Jackets.
With everything going on last week, we had a hard time finding time to practice, said Fort Mill head coach Brett Childers. We didn't execute great, but I'm real proud of the energy they came out with.
Lady Jackets freshman Meredith Christopher hit a key 3-pointer to tie the game at 32 with 62 seconds left in the game sending Fort Mill crowd into a frenzy.
Nation Ford's Haley Fulton hit the second of two free throws with 11.8 seconds to give the Lady Falcons a 33-32 lead. But that allowed Fort Mill one more possession, where Grevious would make the most of it.
The first time the girl's squads of Fort Mill and Nation Ford met, the Lady Falcons were without senior Taylor Yarborough, who was out nursing an injury. This time, the Lady Jackets were without key player in junior Ally Abbott, who broke a bone in her left arm against Clover recently.
Abbott is done for the season as Fort Mill will open the playoffs Thursday, most likely at Dorman.
Fort Mill 34, Nation Ford 33
Nation Ford - Taylor Yarborough 8, Sydney Adams 6, Brooklyn Bailey 4, Alixis Roccia 4, Dani Shaddix 4, Chynna Crawford 4, Courtney Wells 2, Haley Fulton 1. Fort Mill - Arianna Grevious 11, Meredith Christopher 11, Sharae Redmond 5, Kayla Godwin 5, Sierra Patterson 2.
3-pointers: Nation Ford 2 (Bailey, Roccia), Fort Mill 4 (Christopher 3, Godwin). Team fouls - Nation Ford 17, Fort Mill 23. Fouled out - None.
Records: Nation Ford 9-15, 4-10 Region III-AAAA; Fort Mill 17-7, 9-5Region III-AAAA.