Nation Ford High School lost in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs 43-33 to the Blythewood Bengals Tuesday night.
"We picked a bad night not to shoot well," said Nation Ford girls coach Brian Turner.
His team certainly could not have shot much worse than 10-of-57 overall from the floor, 10-of-20 from the free-throw line and 1-of-10 on three pointers in their 43-33 Class AAAA first round playoff loss to the Blythewood Bengals.
The Bengals' dribble penetration and zone defense gave Nation Ford trouble, particularly in the second half, when they held the Falcons to 10 points.
Blythewood went on a 9-0 run in the last 3 1/2 minutes of the first quarter after Nation Ford had scored the first 5 points of the game to lead by 4 at the end of one period.
"We had the score and pace the way we wanted it. We had wide open looks that we missed," Turner said. "They made just enough shots to win."
Nation Ford found its shooting touch in the second quarter. Katie Kozlowski had 7 of her team-high 11 points to help her team lead 23-22 at halftime. The Falcons were also able to convert several of the Bengals' turnovers into layups.
The second half started slowly for both teams. Nation Ford was unable to penetrate Blythewood's zone, and when the Falcons were able to get rebounds, they missed a number of point blank shots.
Nation Ford could not stop Cindy Culbertson, who had a game-high 12 points, from penetrating. Her ability to get to the basket, and the free-throw shooting of Ashleigh Edwards, allowed Blythewood to pull away at the end. Edwards, who had 10 points for the Lady Bengals, was 6-of-6 from the line in the last two minutes.
On a night when Nation Ford High School honored its first senior class of athletes, the girls basketball team, led by senior Katie Kozlowski, defeated rival Fort Mill 47-29 in their final regular season game.
Kozlowski led a balanced scoring attack with nine points, as the Falcons' comfortable win, coupled with Northwestern's 56-27 pounding of Gaffney, created a four-way tie for first place in the region.
Nation Ford, Northwestern, Gaffney and York each finished the region schedule with 7-3 records. After the tie breaking process, Nation Ford came away with the top spot and will have a number one seed in the playoffs.
Kozlowski said the win was huge for the Falcons program.
"We were hoping to go into the playoffs as the top seed," Kozlowski said. "Our goal is the state championship, but we're just going to get in there and have fun."
Nation Ford, 17-6 overall, opened up the payoffs at home against Blythewood Tuesday night (results were not available by press time, but go to www.fortmilltimes.com and click on the Sports tab for an update).
Kozlowski is one of three seniors on the Falcon's team, along with Lindsay Buckles, a two-sport athlete who also runs cross country, and Shiquisha Watts, a first-year player who battled through a season-long knee injury.
All three seniors had time on the court during the final game.
"It was great for us to get out there as seniors, give it all we had," Kozlowski said.
Falcons guard Carson Trull said it meant a lot, not only to win on the final night, but also to finish in the region's top spot.
"We got to see our seniors go out with a big win against our rivals," Trull said. "Hopefully we'll go farther in the playoffs. It's really exciting to know the first senior class at Nation Ford went to the playoffs - and we get to experience it with them." Nation Ford High School was opened in 2007.
"It's interesting for our senior class because they spent their first two years at Fort Mill. They're seeing blue and gold across the room but graduating in black and red. It's a special night," said head coach Brian Turner.
If the Falcons won their first playoff game they will have a home matchup against either Laurens or Spartanburg Friday. If they move past that, they will be on the road for the third round.