Four different Falcons scored in double-digits as Nation Ford coasted to a comfortable 68-41 home non-region victory over York Comprehensive High School Friday night.
Jackson Falkner led the way with 15 points, Caden Giles dominated the boards with 14 points, while JJ Rembert added 11 points and Daheem Knowles dropped in 10 points as they rounded out the top scorers for Nation Ford, which finished out their non-region slate against an overmatched Cougars team.
With the win, Nation Ford improves to 7-9 on the season, while York drops to 1-13.
The Falcons hopped out to an early 11-5 run through Falkner’s inside play, and Sheldon Joseph helped to extend the lead to 20 when he notched three buckets in the second quarter as Nation Ford head coach Charles Brown rotated in squad players to earn valuable minutes.
The Falcons led by 22 at halftime. The Cougars cut the lead to 49-29 near the end of the third quarter when Jaxon Wilkins-Graham, Donlontae Guthrie, and Bryson Steele sparked a 6-0 run.
But Nation Ford responded with a 14-5 spark in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 30.
Brown said he wanted his team to focus on fundamentals and showing up to play each opponent in the same way.
“Whether we’re playing against the No. 1 team in the country or a team with one win, we have a lot more to gain by being disciplined and focusing on what we need to focus on,” Brown said.
Wilmore sparks rally for Nation Ford
Nation Ford head coach Kelly Bennett said nerves about being in front of the camera led to a sluggish opening half Friday night for Nation Ford at home against non-region York Comprehensive High School.
But once the Lady Falcons started playing their brand of basketball, Bennett’s players started looking like stars.
Nation Ford, now 9-6 overall, overcame a 12-point deficit in the second quarter, then held off a spirited York rally in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, to earn an exciting 44-42 home win in front of a home crowd and even a camera crew from the school’s local student media.
The student videographers were taking footage of the team during their pregame, said Bennett, who was mic’d up. At first, the team got off to a tough start, falling behind 16-4 with five minutes to play in the first half.
“At first, they didn’t know how to respond,” Bennett said. “But it was a great lesson. No matter who follows us, we still play our basketball.”
Timely plays by the right playmakers turned the tide for the Falcons. Sophomore shooting guard Camille Kerridge (8 points) and Kedra Drakeford (3 points) combined for all of Nation Ford’s 11 second-quarter points to cut the lead to just four at the break.
After halftime, sophomore small forward Kayla Wilmore, who led with 20 points, took center stage. She scored 16 of Nation Ford’s 23 third-quarter points to spark a comeback. Her steal on an inbounds pass tied the game up at 23-23.
Aubrey Barney’s 3-pointer, combined with two quick layups by Jalyn Bennett to close out the third, transformed a deficit into an 11-point Falcons lead. Nation Ford outscored York 23-8 in the decisive third quarter.
Bennett praised Wilmore, who rattled off seven buckets in the space of six minutes during a 16-8 run.
“The huge thing for Kayla is that she’s finally understanding she can play,” Bennett said. “I’ve told her from the moment I met her. She’s getting more and more aggressive in the paint. That locker room is full of talent… They’re gaining confidence every game.”
York gave Nation Ford a challenge in the final quarter. Katherine Coltey, Jada Anderson, and Kymyia Brown all scored buckets to cut the lead to 44-39 with 2:30 left to play.
As the clock ticked down, Anderson threw up a desperation 3-point heave that somehow went in with less than eight seconds to play. But even after a Nation Ford turnover on the next possession, the Cougars couldn’t get anything going on their final play, and the Falcons ran out the clock.
Nation Ford is looking forward to a daunting region schedule next week. Between respected rivals like Rock Hill, Clover, Blythewood, Fort Mill, and Spring Valley, Bennett called Region 3-5A the best region in the state. Every team is a “monster,” he said.
“But that’s why we played the teams we played in the non-region schedule,” he added. “So, we can play against some great teams. Whoever fights the most will win it all.”
Nation Ford kicks off its region schedule with a road trip to Clover on Tues., Jan. 10 before returning home for a contest against Blythewood on Friday, Jan. 13.