Nation Ford’s JJ Rember goes up for a shot during the Falcons game against Spring Valley Tuesday. Photos by Rob Upton Photography.

Nation Ford head coach Charles Brown knows the score.

If Nation Ford beats crosstown region rival Fort Mill on the road on Friday night, the Falcons are guaranteed a spot in the Class 5A state playoffs.

Sure, the Falcons could potentially still make it into the playoffs with a loss, depending on outside results. But that’s not what Brown’s team is focusing on.

Thanks to a 59-44 victory over visiting Spring Valley on Tuesday night, Nation Ford just needs to focus on earning one more win to earn that bracket spot.

“There’s nothing stopping us from getting in,” Brown said. “They’re focusing on themselves. That’s the mindset they’re playing with, they’re playing for the other guy. The name on the front of the jersey. Whether they’ve got 20 or 30 seconds on the court, I ask them to give their best.”

The Falcons’ JJ Rembert led all scorers with 18 points, including five field goals in the fourth quarter, to help the Falcons improve to 9-16 overall and 2-7 in Region 3-5A to close out the region win. Shelden Joseph added 14 points, while Nick Chuttey and Caden Giles both chipped in 10 points each.

Nation Ford took an early 12-6 lead after the first quarter, thanks to Joseph’s three first-quarter buckets. His last shot of the quarter was the highlight after he laid out to save an errant pass, then recovered to nail a mid-range basket on the same play.

Both teams hit three buckets each as the Falcons entered halftime with a 20-13 lead.

Nation Ford took a double-digit lead on the back of a 7-0 run in the middle of the third, but Spring Valley answered with a 10-2 run of its own to close out the third quarter.

Up by nine with eight minutes to play, Brown told his team to keep confident and play their style of basketball.

“I told them to defend, continue to play together, be strong with the ball, and don’t second-guess your decision,” he said.

Brown’s defense stood tall in the fourth quarter, holding the Vikings without a field goal for at least three minutes as Nation Ford enjoyed a 15-7 run to start the fourth quarter. That run included four baskets by Rembert, who became the focal point of the Nation Ford offense with his darting runs inside the paint.

By the time the final buzzer sounded, Nation Ford had outscored Spring Valley by six points in the fourth, and the Vikings were unable to mount a comeback.

“JJ is always on the attack,” Brown said. “We don’t have to tell him twice. That’s his speed.”

And now the focus turns to Fort Mill, where Nation Ford will play to potentially earn a spot in the Class 5A bracket. The last time the two teams met, the Yellow Jackets came out on top 65-56 in overtime.

Brown knows that winning on the road will be a hard task. But he’s seen his team overcome plenty of obstacles so far.

“There’s been a lot of sleepless nights of wondering whether we’re heading in the right direction,” he said. “But to see the growth in the guys, it’s how you feel the atmosphere. That translates on the court.”

 Spring Valley girls win in rout over Falcons

Each of Spring Valley’s 11 dressed players scored in a 78-48 rout over Nation Ford Tuesday evening in Fort Mill.

JaiDah Liebert led all scorers with 23 points, including four first-quarter 3-pointers that helped the visiting Vikings, now 8-1 in region play, take a commanding lead.

Spring Valley shot out to a 26-9 advantage after the first quarter and rarely looked back. Zie’l Ratchford (11 points), Imari Humphrey (10 points) and Madison Entzminger (8 points) all played their part in the paint, creating plenty of second chances off offensive rebounds.

Spring Valley extended its lead to 30 with a 19-2 run in the first six minutes of the second half. The Vikings led by as many as 39 deep into the fourth.

Kayla Wilmore led the Falcons, who fell to 12-12 overall and 3-6 in the region, with 15 points. Camille Kerridge added 13 points, while Aubrey Barney and Georgia Sharpless combined for 12 points. Nation Ford suffered a 25-point defeat at Spring Valley earlier this season.  

Nation Ford is guaranteed to play a road playoff game to kick off the Class 5A girls state championships. Depending on results elsewhere, the Lady Falcons could finish between third and fifth place in the region, which would determine Nation Ford’s eventual first-round opponent.

Nation Ford finishes its regular season with a home game against crosstown region rival Fort Mill 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10.

Nation Ford’s Jalyn Bennett takes a shot during the Lady Falcons game Tuesday night.