The showdown between a pair of top-10 ranked teams for first place in the region was pretty much a done deal by halftime as Gaffney bolted to a typical fast start and retained a comfortable margin throughout Tuesday's 80-58 victory over Northwestern.
The No. 2 Indians heeded the demand by head coach Mark Huff that they add a healthier dose of defense to their frenetic, high-scoring ways as Huff was sure his team was aware that one night after they scored 101 against Spartanburg Friday, the No. 9 Trojans put up 94.
"We did let them know about that, but more importantly we made sure they understood that we gave up a lot more to Spartanburg than Northwestern did when we didn't play any defense at all in the second half," Huff said. "It was pitiful. I didn't want to give up 61 again in the second half and no matter the score we needed to play like it was zero to zero."
The Indians are playing with a noticeable chip on their shoulder as they continue to recover from the shock of losing to Lancaster and are now back atop the Region III-4A standings.
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Gaffney (16-1, 3-1) held the very athletic and physical Trojans (11-8, 3-2) to only 19 first-half points, including just nine in the opening quarter, while posting 21 in each of the first two quarters for a 42-19 cushion at the intermission.
"Coach Huff always tells us to stay bold on defense and we know we have to play good defense to win games and that's what we did," Willie Smith said. "We started out with the tempo racing a bit and knocked down some big shots near the end of the half."
The Indians held Northwestern scoreless for a 4:25 stretch in the opening quarter during a 12-0 run that broke a 7-7 tie. Smith scored the final seven during that spurt and versatile post man Quinshad Davis scored 11 of his game-high 20 in the first half. Gaffney also held the Trojans without a field goal for the opening 3:30 to start the second.
"(Huff) had been getting on us about how many offensive rebounds we'd given up in our last game and he wanted us to play big and get to the boards," Davis said.
Gaffney led by as many as 28 in the third quarter as point guard Dershawn Dawkins attacked the rim for eight of his 17 points. Northwestern would get no closer than 17 throughout the second half. Seven different Indians had at least five points with L.J. Peak joining Dawkins and Davis in double figures with 12 and Smith adding nine.
Northwestern's Montrece Kennedy scored 20, including a trio of 3-pointers.
"No disrespect to Northwestern, but ever since our loss to Lancaster everybody has amped their game up and we feel like we can beat any team by a lot," Davis said.
Northwestern -- Johnta McMillan 13, Love 2, Long 4, Orr 7, Montrece Kennedy 20, Bell 8, A. McClure 2, R. McClure 2.
Gaffney -- Dershaun Dawkins 17, W.Smith 9, L.J. Peak 12, Quinshad Davis 20, M. Wright 5, Littlejohn 2, Best 7.
3-pointers - Gaffney 4 (Smith 2, M. Wright, Best) Northwestern 3 (Kennedy 3)
Records: Gaffney (17-1 3-1)