Behind the strength of its fourth-quarter lockdown defense, Northwestern picked up a key 39-28 win over Clover on Tuesday.
The Trojans silenced the Blue Eagles' offense in the fourth quarter by limiting it to one field goal. Trey Turner scored Clover's only basket when he drove hard to the basket with 5:57 left to play.
"Our defense is what's keeping us in basketball games," Northwestern coach Mike Gossett said. "Our guards and wings did a good job getting the ball inside tonight but our post people just weren't focused at the start of the game.
"We missed seven or eight from within a foot in the first half. We have got to make those."
Despite a poor-shooting first quarter, Northwestern (7-8, 4-1 Region 3-AAAA) only trailed by two at the end of the quarter. The lid came off the basket in the second.
Both teams settled down and played a cleaner, more productive second quarter. Chris Lindsay, who celebrated his 17th birthday, gave Clover its final lead, 14-11, when he swished a baseline jumper with 2:36 left in the second.
Northwestern countered with a 6-1 run to close the half.
Holding a slim two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, Northwestern settled down and began to pull away.
Chris Belton scored six of his game-high 11 points over the first two minutes of the quarter as Northwestern used a 9-2 run to go ahead by eight with 5:27 remaining.
"(He's) an energy ball," Gossett said of his 6-foot-5 junior, who sparked the fourth-quarter surge. "He always wants to go and he made some big plays for us. He's made a couple big plays in a few other games that got us going.
"The kids love that about him. He plays extremely hard, as they all do, but Chris seems to have the knack with his long arms and the ability to get in the way and make a play."
Leading by nine with 3:06 left, Gossett called a timeout to settle his team down and remind it of how to handle playing with a lead down the stretch.
"We're trying to get better at time-and-score situations," he said. "They're getting better at it."
The Trojans hope to carry momentum from the win into Friday's matchup against arch rival Rock Hill.