ROCK HILL – Nation Ford used a 24-point fourth quarter, including seven consecutive made free throws in the final 90 seconds, to ice a hard-fought 56-52 comeback victory over Region 3-5A foe Rock Hill on the road Tuesday night.
Down by eight with 5:30 to go, Nation Ford nailed two important 3-pointers to turn the tide.
The Falcons, now 8-10 overall and 1-2 in region, then hit their most important shots of the game from the charity stripe to help earn their first region win of the season.
“I tried to put my energy into them,” said Nation Ford head coach Charles Brown. “I want them to be the best they can be, and build this program the right way. It’s good to walk out of here after a hard-fought game.”
Nation Ford’s Jackson Burnham led all scorers with 26 points, while Ben Chuttey had 15 points, and Caden Giles added 9 points.
Rock Hill jumped out to a 10-4 lead midway through the first quarter, thanks to two 3-pointers. The Bearcats held the Falcons to just one bucket in the opening quarter, but the visitors hit five of their six free throws to stay in the game.
Nation Ford used a 10-0 run in the final 2:30 of the half to cut the lead to just two points entering halftime.
Burnham hit four buckets in the second quarter. After teammates Giles and Anthony Pryer cut the lead to six with their foul shots, Burnham blazed through the middle of the court on a fast break to hit a layup to limit the lead to 23-19.
He would then hit two more free throws to cut the lead to 23-21 with 4.7 seconds left. The Falcons stopped the ensuing Rock Hill possession, and the Falcons entered the break with plenty of life.
Nation Ford earned its first lead of the night when Burnham knocked home a trey with 5:15 left in the third quarter. But Rock Hill responded with two layups to give the home team a five-point lead heading into the final quarter, up 37-32.
Down by seven in the fourth quarter, Chuttey nailed a trey on the left wing to cut the lead to four. His shot was followed up by Burnham, who stole the inbounds pass and hit a layup to cut the lead to 42-40 with 4 minutes left.
Burnham then hit a 3-point shot of his own with 1:23 on the clock before nailing a layup in traffic on the next play, giving Nation Ford a 50-47 lead with the ensuing free throw.
Rock Hill had plenty of chances to earn back the lead but failed to convert on any of their own 3-point shots.
In each of Nation Ford’s last four trips to the foul line, the Falcons hit all seven available shots to ice the win.
“(Burnham)’s talent can take over,” Brown said. “He played controlled, and he gets his buckets. He’s an ultimate team player. I didn’t have any doubts that he could pull us through.”
Lady Falcons still winless in region
Seven different Rock Hill players scored in the Bearcats’ 69-24 blowout of visiting Lady Falcons in the region contest in Rock Hill.
Small forward Ariah Heard finished the game as Nation Ford’s leading scorer with 7 points, while junior guard Aubrey Barney had 6 points for the Lady Falcons.
Rock Hill jumped out to a 23-1 lead after eight minutes, thanks to four early 3-pointers between De’Ashaj Crawford and Hudson. Nation Ford was held without a bucket until Heard hit a layup with 6:30 left in the second quarter.
Rock Hill pushed the lead out to 45 heading into the fourth quarter, thanks to a 20-3 run during the third quarter, which included back-to-back treys between Hudson and Omadeah Ford, preceded by three straight layups from Crawford.
Nation Ford falls to 10-8 overall and 0-3 in the region. Nation Ford next hosts region opponent Spring Valley Friday, Jan. 19 before traveling to play at crosstown rival Fort Mill Tuesday, Jan. 23.