Big fourth quarter leads Trojans past Bearcats in final region game

Northwestern's Patrick Cunningham shoots over Rock Hill's Colby Niven.
Northwestern's Patrick Cunningham shoots over Rock Hill's Colby Niven.

The end of an era in Rock Hill saw Northwestern run away from the Bearcats in the final seven minutes to post a 54-39 win. The game marked the final region matchup -- at least for two years -- between the schools.

Northwestern (13-11, 10-4 Region 3-AAAA) finished the regular season in third place in the region. The Trojans will travel to Dorman or Byrnes on Wednesday to open the first round of the playoffs.

The lead changed hands five times before the Trojans pulled ahead for good, 31-29, with 2:35 left in the third quarter on a three-point play by Zach Beaver. The senior guard was the beneficiary of a pass after a steal. He scored on a layup and was fouled.

Rock Hill (7-14, 5-9) played its game for the first 20 minutes. With Northwestern struggling with its shots, the Bearcats were in the game.

Rock Hill senior Mario McCullough hit a hook shot to start the fourth quarter. His bucket closed the gap to 36-35.

It was the Bearcats' final field goal of the season.

Northwestern reeled off an 18-2 run and won the game in convincing style.

Trojans coach Mike Gossett was pleased with his team's effort.

"Our shots just didn't fall in the first half. We had good effort all game. But Rock Hill did a good job doing what they were doing," Gossett said. "We picked it up a little better with the press in the second half."

Beaver agreed the defense made the difference after the half.

"We started to pick up the full-court pressure in the second half. We came at them with a run-and-jump. That's a different style for us," Beaver explained.

"We started the game kind of sluggish, but going to the press helped us get going."

Beaver finished with nine points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

Labris Adams led the way for the Trojans with 14 points. Taylor Shugart added 11 points and seven boards.

McCullough closed out his prep career just a rebound shy of a double-double. The forward, one of two seniors on the roster, had 18 points and nine rebounds.

"All we talked about coming into this game was getting the younger players prepared for next year," McCullough said. "We wanted to send the seniors out with a big win."