Nation Ford’s Petey Tuipulotu drives the baseline during the championship game at the Emerald City Classic in Greenwood.

GREENWOOD – The Nation Ford Falcons rattled off three straight wins to claim the Emerald City Classic basketball tournament over the holiday break.

                Nation Ford improved to 7-8 overall on the season after the tournament held at Emerald High School. The Falcons beat Belton-Honea Path 56-49 to win the title after beating Greenwood and Strom Thurmond in the first two rounds.

                Overall, Falcons’ head coach Jared Adamson said he feels his team is doing well heading into the second half of the season.

                “We are getting there,” he said. “It is a process. We want to continue to improve. We improved on some things. The guys are understanding how we do things.”

                The Falcons were led during the tournament from senior Petey Tuipulotu, who led in scoring each game.

                “Petey has been solid,” Adamson said. “We leaned on him and every game he steps up. Someone always steps up.”

                Tuipulotu scored 25 points in the championship game as he was dominate in the fourth quarter scoring 12 of those points. Nation Ford held a 41-31 lead after the third quarter against Belton-Honea Path, despite the fact that Belton-Honea Path finished the third quarter on a 5-0 run.

                Belton-Honea Path outscored Nation Ford 18-15 in the final quarter, but it was the inside play of Tuipulotu that allowed the Falcons to stay afloat. Belton-Honea Path started the game off fast and went up 5-0 before Nation Ford was able to score. The Falcons were able to rally thanks to the long-range shooting of Tyler Thaxton, who scored 12 points in the game. Thaxton scored eight of those 12 in the first quarter.

                The second quarter saw Nation Ford surge ahead due to eight points from Tuipulotu and seven points from Andrew Meacham, who also added 10 points in the game for the Falcons. Nation Ford shot 50 percent from the field in the first half and were nearly perfect from the foul line.

                Belton-Honea Path scrapped and clawed their way back into the game in the third quarter, despite Nation Ford started the second half on a 6-0 run. Belton-Honea Path matched the Falcons shot for shot in the third quarter and started to use more of a half-court trap and press in the fourth quarter, which caused some aggravation for Nation Ford.

                The Falcons became more selective with their shots in the final period and continuously dumped the ball inside to Tuipulotu on the block.

                Earlier in the tournament, Nation Ford was able to beat Greenwood 61-58, with Tuipulotu leading them with 17 points. In the tournament opener, the Falcons beat Strom Thurmond 52-42 and Tuipulotu again led with 15 points for Nation Ford.

                Now that school is back in session, the Falcons will open Region 3-5A play at home against Rock Hill Jan. 14 before hosting Clover Jan. 17.

Mac Banks:, @MacBanksFM