Against the Gaffney Indians on Tuesday night, Northwestern showed every bit of the resiliency that led it to a one-point victory over Region 3-AAAA region and cross-town rival Rock Hill last week.
But despite cutting an 18-point lead to three in the final minutes, the Trojans' late rally wasn't enough, as Gaffney held on for a 74-69 win to move to a perfect 5-0 in region play.
"This was a game where every point counted, and Northwestern never allowed us a chance to breathe," said Gaffney coach Mark Huff. "But overall our performance on the defensive boards proved to be the difference."
Though Gaffney dominated the glass on both sides, Northwestern never went away in the first half, which resulted in several highlight-reel plays for both teams.
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Rontavius McClure sent the crowd to its feet on two occasions in the first quarter, with a two-handed dunk as well as a 3-pointer that banked in from well beyond the arc. But the Indians' Ron Best ended the quarter on an emphatic note, hitting a half-court buzzer-beater to break an 18-18 tie.
At the 3-minute, 48-second mark in the second quarter, Gaffney forward Quinshad Davis was hit with a technical foul, and Jhante McMillian and Manzi Hill hit four free throws that were Northwestern's first points in the quarter after a five-minute stretch that saw the Trojans only make one shot attempt. But the technical foul seemed to spark the Trojans, with McClure hitting a tying 3-pointer with a minute and a half to play.
However, Gaffney responded with yet another buzzer-beating half-court shot, this time from Cobby McDowell, which gave the Indians a four-point edge.
The third quarter belonged to power forwards Best and Kerry Williams, who combined for 12 points - including a three-point play each. Northwestern also sank into another lengthy scoring drought as all signs pointed toward a Gaffney rout. But the Trojans battled back, and sophomore forward Mustafia Love hit a buzzer-beating layup of his own to shrink the Indians' lead back to 10.
Northwestern continued its momentum into the fourth quarter, scoring 21 points and cutting the Indians' lead to three at one point. But clutch free throws down the stretch from Williams and Keenen Littlejohn halted what could've been a stunning Northwestern comeback.
Northwestern -- Rontavius McClure 23, Mustafia Love 13, Jhante McMillian 13, Keenan Orr 8, Manzi Hill 6, Keith Bell 6, Mason Rudolph 2.
Gaffney -- Ron Best 15, Kerry Williams 14, L.J. Peak 14, Quinshad Davis 9, Cobby McDowell 7, Michael Wright 6, Tee Hardy 5, Quan Weeks 2, Keenen Littlejohn 2.
3-pointers -- Northwestern 4 (McClure 2, Love, McMillian); Gaffney 5 (Wright 2, Hardy, Best, McDowell). Team fouls -- Northwestern 19, Gaffney 16. Fouled out --Gaffney: Kerry Williams.
Records: Northwestern 9-7, Region 1-3; Gaffney 14-4, Region 5-0.