FORT MILL -- With the playoffs beginning in less than a week, the time is now to build momentum and focus on the big picture. Northwestern did both as the Trojans picked up a huge 66-50 road win over the Yellow Jackets of Fort Mill.
The Trojans established a lead early in the game, ending the first quarter on a 9-2 run. Shawn Furguson scored five points during the spurt, and the Yellow Jackets never really recovered.
Northwestern established control early with a relentless half-court defense. Fort Mill normally relies on its perimeter shooting, but never had much success.
The Trojans looked inside as an answer to the smaller Fort Mill squad. Cordarrelle Patterson and Chris Belton dominated the smaller lineup.
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Belton scored 20 points and Patterson chipped in 12, as the Trojans controlled the game in the paint.
Belton and Patterson both had momentum-changing slam dunks that kept Northwestern's lead in check.
Patterson's jam with 4:30 remaining in the third gave the Trojans a 15-point lead and essentially put the game out of reach.
Fort Mill had a couple of opportunities to rally, but cut the lead to single digits in the second half. Andrew Parra nearly brought the Jackets back when he hit a toe on the line deuce, then used a turnover to add a layup with just under three minutes remaining.
Rashawn Dupree added two buckets as Fort Mill cut the lead to 11 after being down 17, but Northwestern had enough of a cushion to override its mistakes and come up with the win.
"We really moved the ball well offensively," said Northwestern coach Mike Gossett. "Defensively, we put a lot of pressure on them and eliminated a lot of their backdoor passes and long shots, which they do very well.
"Fort Mill is very well coached, and they have given us some trouble in the past, but we really responded well to the challenge tonight."
Despite how well Northwestern played, Fort Mill's coach Bailey Jackson was not impressed with his teams effort.
"We have a lot of work to do before Friday," said Jackson of their next game against crosstown rival Nation Ford. "We did not execute what we practiced, and Northwestern really took advantage of all of our mistakes. We were not focused as a team."
The Trojans end the regular season against region leader Gaffney on Friday while the Yellow Jackets face Nation Ford.