An offensive foul call against Nation Ford High School with six seconds left put a damper on the team's run through the Airport High FCA Classic.
The call came in the tournament finals as the Falcons trailed against Dutch Fork High School 68-67 and was trying to pull out a last-second win. The foul gave the ball back to Dutch Fork, which then added two free throws to seal the 70-67 win.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“That is a tough loss for the kids,” Falcons head coach Donnie Holland said. “You just hate to see the outcome determined like that, by a call like that and not decided by the kids.”
Nation Ford cruised to the tournament finals with wins over Columbia High (67-53) and Gilbert High (62-41), but struggled against Dutch Fork.
Dutch Fork came out firing from all over the court and went on a huge, 16-1 run in the first quarter as it put down Nation Ford 20-10. The Falcons didn't help their cause with poor ball handling, but managed to stay in the game.
All five starters for Nation Ford scored in double digits as freshman Jaylen Reid led with 16 points.
Dutch Fork consistently out-rebounded Nation Ford and turned those opportunities to second chance points. Dutch Fork's quickness had the Falcons struggling to get back in time to set up any type of defense.
Nation Ford came out of the half trailing 42-28, but cut the lead to just 10 points with two quick baskets. The Falcons then pulled within two during a 12-0 run, but just when it seemed they were back in it, Dutch Fork put together a 7-0 run of its own and pulled away.
Turnovers continued to plague Nation Ford as it gave up easy layups and was never able to completely take the upper hand.
In the fourth quarter, Nation Ford trailed by three at 66-63, when McCullough's dunk got things going the Falcons' way. Senior Sam Hirsch hit two free-throws to give the Falcons their first lead since the opening period with just 21 seconds left at 67-66, but Nation Ford failed to stop the ball on the other end and Dutch Fork retook the lead with about 10 seconds to go.
From there, Hirsch would draw the foul that gave Dutch Fork the chance to seal the win.
Hirsch added 13 points and McCullough had 15 points, while both sophomore T.J. Jones and junior D.J. Dinwiddie had 11 points each.
“We didn't play well in the first half, but our guys fought back,” Holland said. “I was well pleased with our effort.”
Against Gilbert High, the Falcons were led by Hirsch's 17 points. Reid had 14 points and Dinwiddie added 10 points.
Hirsch also led in scoring against Columbia with 18 points. McCullough scored 14 and Reid 13 points, as Jones finished with 10 points.
Nation Ford won't return home to play until Region III-AAAA action begins Jan. 11 against Northwestern.