Nation Ford’s Jackson Burnham drives to the basket during the Falcons game against Clover Wednesday night. Photos by Rob Upton.

The Nation Ford boys’ basketball team was outscored 22-2 in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s Region 3-5A home opener against Clover, leading to a 65-41 loss for the Falcons.

Senior center Caden Giles and sophomore point guard Chase Walters led Nation Ford, now 7-9 overall, in scoring with 11 points each. Giles was recognized before the game for breaking the school’s career blocked shots record (144 blocks).

Nation Ford led by five at halftime, but an 8-2 run to start the third quarter cut into the lead. A Trenton Palumbo 3-pointer with two minutes left in the third gave Clover its first lead since early in the first quarter, and the Blue Eagles took a four-point lead heading into the final eight minutes.

That’s where Clover dominated, scoring with ease on one end and forcing Nation Ford into few opportunities on the other end.

The Falcons scored just one field goal in the final quarter, a Jackson Burnham layup with 4:15 left on the clock that cut the lead to 12.

But by then, the damage had been done. The visitors hit two mid-range jumpers to extend their lead, and Jaylon Hoover converted a pretty behind-the-back layup to push the lead to 10 with less than seven minutes left.

A steal on the defensive end allowed Palumbo to hit another trey, this one to give the Blue Eagles a 57-41 lead and allow Clover fans the chance to start singing in the stands.

Nation Ford head boys coach Charles Brown said his team had a “toughness issue.”

“It’s an issue of heart,” Brown said. “We’re not making winning plays. We’ve got good players, but we’re not a good team right now. I’ve got to look at it and say, ‘What am I not doing?'”

Girls fall behind in second half as well

Clover outscored Nation Ford 38-17 in the second half to earn a 63-44 win in the teams’ first Region 3-5A matchup of the 2023-24 season.

The Blue Eagles opened the first quarter with a 16-0 run to earn a comfortable lead after eight minutes.

But the Lady Falcons fought back hard, thanks to some dogged play at the rim and three choice 3-pointers by small forward Ariah Heard.

Her last trey of the first half helped Nation Ford tie the game back up at 25-25 with a minute to go, and she followed that up with a layup on the next possession to give the Lady Falcons a 27-25 halftime advantage.

But Clover used a 17-point third quarter to take the lead for good. Samara Lucas and Clara Powell combined to hit six straight buckets on six possessions to end the third quarter and push the lead to 42-33 entering the final eight minutes.

Nation Ford scored just two baskets coming out of the halftime break. Clover then piled on 21 more points in the fourth to further push the lead.

“It’s youth,” said Nation Ford head girls coach Kelly Bennett. “One moment, they have confidence, and when someone cuts back door, they hit a three, and the confidence is gone. … If that’s going to get you down, we’ll be in a dogfight for the rest of the season.”  

Nation Ford is 10-6 on the season and 0-1 in region play. Heard led all scorers with 19 points, while Jalyn Bennett chipped in 10 points for the Lady Falcons.

Nation Ford next plays at Blythewood Friday, Jan. 12.

The Falcons Ariah Heard lifts a shot over a Clover defender during Wednesday night’s game.