FORT MILL -- By the skin of Zach Beaver's knees, No. 1 Fort Mill avoided being upset by Northwestern and kept its unblemished record intact with a 46-44 victory on Tuesday.
Northwestern led most of the game and was on top 44-41 on Beaver's short jumper with 2:50 remaining, his first basket of the game.
Fort Mill fought back and a pair of Cam Smith free throws gave the Yellow Jackets the lead, 45-44, with 30.1 seconds on the clock. Northwestern had its chances while Fort Mill was making its move, but Will King and Labris Adams missed the front ends of one-and-ones to keep the Yellow Jackets on top.
Then it got interesting. During a timeout it was announced that everyone should stay in their seats after the game and not leave the gym. After the announcement, the game continued.
After Smith's free throw, Northwestern ran the clock to 8.4 seconds and called another timeout to set up a play. King inbounded the ball to Beaver, who drove down the right side of the lane.
But before Beaver could get to the basket, shoot or dish off, he fell and skidded toward the baseline. The coaches stood and awaited the call. It was traveling and the ball went to Fort Mill with 1.3 seconds left.
King fouled Fort Mill center Chalmers Rogers on the inbound pass, and the 6-foot-7 center, who played with a protective mask because of the broken nose he suffered last week, made 1-of-2 free throws and pushed the Yellow Jackets ahead 46-44.
All Northwestern could do was throw the ball in and fire it toward the basket on the other end. It never had a chance.
Fort Mill principal Dee Christopher cut on the microphone and told everyone there had been an incident in the area and that everyone should get out of the gym and to their cars as soon as possible.
He didn't tell the fans that there had been a shooting near the school and reportedly the suspect ran in the direction of the school. He did so to avoid panic -- police officers were stationed in the parking lot as the fans filed out.
And that's how one of the best games in Region 3-AAAA this season ended.
"It's the same story for us,'' Northwestern coach Mike Gossett said. "We get to the free throw line and can't make our shots.
"Our kids played their guts out and Fort Mill played their guts out. They are a good team and aren't 23-0 for nothing. I'm proud of my kids. They are playing better at the right time."
Fort Mill moved to 23-0, 13-0 in Region 3-AAAA. The Yellow Jackets travel to South Pointe on Friday.
Northwestern fell to 12-11. 9-4 in the region. The Trojans, in a battle with South Pointe and York for second place in the region, hosts rival Rock Hill on Friday.
Northwestern came out strong and built a 15-8 lead on King's basket near the end of the first quarter. But it was Adams who did most of the damage, scoring eight of his game-high 16 points in the opening period.
"It was an exciting game,'' Adams said. "We were ahead most of the way and I was thinking if we keep our heads, we could hand Fort Mill its first loss. We played hard, but just missed getting it done.''
The score was tied twice in the third quarter, but hard as they tried, the Yellow Jackets couldn't mount a run to put pressure on the Trojans.
Northwestern struck first, getting a basket from Adams, who missed a chance to complete a three-point play. On the other end, Torrell Priest drained a 3-pointer and tied the game at 27.
Late in the quarter, Priest nailed another 3-pointer that pushed his team ahead 36-34. But King drove to the hoop and beat the buzzer with a short jumper from the baseline to tie it up heading into the final eight minutes.
There were only two field goals in the fourth quarter, both by Northwestern; Fort Mill's points came from the free throw line.
"Northwestern is the best defensive team in our region and had a good game plan tonight to keep us away from the basket,'' Fort Mill coach Bailey Jackson said. "This was your typical Fort Mill-Northwestern game. The difference was we made some shots.''
Smith made 4-of-6 free throws, all in the fourth quarter. All four touched nothing but the bottom of the net and the floor.
"I had to make them and redeem myself for missing two others,'' Smith said. "It was a physical game, got tough under the basket. We were behind, but this team never gives up.''