Neither of Northwestern's varsity basketball teams have a first-round home playoff game, so the next two nights, Marty Shugart and his wife, Renee, will take road trips up Interstate-85.
Tonight the destination is Dorman High School, where the girls team takes on last year's Class AAAA state runner-up. The Shugarts' daughter, Bailey, is a back-up junior wing player for the Lady Trojans.
The trip is a little longer Wednesday night, but not by much. The boys team opens at Byrnes and is led by Bailey's brother, 6-foot-7 senior center Taylor.
"We pull for each other, and this time he'll get to see our entire game,'' Bailey said. "During the regular season, Taylor watches the first half of our games, then has to go in the locker room with the rest of the team and get ready.
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"Most times when we finish, I go back into the gym to watch his game. I usually sit with my parents, and most of the time our uncle Daryl comes.''
Both teams finished third in Region 3-AAAA, meaning they had to go on the road and stay there as long as they are winning and playing a higher seed.
Playoff season is no stranger to the boys team, which has become a fixture during coach Mike Gossett's 15 seasons.
The girls were there every year way back, then fell on lean times. After missing six straight years, the Lady Trojans got back last season under first-year coach Bill Warren with a losing record. But they showed enough progress to start the season ranked No. 8 in Class AAAA's preseason poll.
Warren became Northwestern athletics director this year, and John Bramlett took over. The team struggled early but met his goal of finishing with a .500 record, beating rival Rock Hill in the final game of the regular season.
The good thing about the playoffs is everyone is 0-0 when they start because of the single-elimination format. Both Northwestern teams have played well down the stretch.
Bailey is tall at 6-1, but is a Lady Trojans role player. Taylor is the best or second-best player, depending on who is being asked, on the boys team.
The boys play a patient, half-court game and like to keep scores in the 50-points range, but does run at times. Shugart averages 14 points, nine rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots, good numbers for the system he's asked to play. He shoots 67 percent from the foul line and is known for his booming dunks.
"There is something I need to work on,'' he said. "I tend to not play as hard against weaker teams and step it up against good teams. I don't why it's like that, but it happens.
"We're in the playoffs now, so I have to be consistent every night. I guess it helps that all the teams we'll play are good. I feel for sure it will be the same, though. I'll be double-teamed and triple-teamed, and I'll have to work hard to get the ball.''
Tall is a Shugart family trait. But the time Taylor was in the eighth grade at Rawlinson Road, he was 6-3 and dunking. Marty, his dad, is 6-7. His uncle Darryl is 6-10 and his uncle Scott is 6-5. All three played basketball for the Rock Hill Bearcats. Taylor and Bailey's mom is 6-0.
"I probably would have never known that if our grandfather hadn't told me,'' Bailey said. "Rock Hill is our top rival, but we never hear our dad talk about it. He and mom support us and what we do, so it doesn't matter who we play for.''
Gossett said Taylor is coming into his own here late in the season; no more sluggish games against lesser teams.
Northwestern and Gossett needs that and more of the same from the other players if they want to go far into the playoffs.
"Taylor is a good player, but his best years are ahead of him,'' Gossett said. "There were times when I had to put a light under him like I was heating a gas heater.
"But he's getting the fire he needs in his belly. I hope he keeps it lit.''
So far, Taylor is hearing from Lander, Lees-McRae and Liberty. He said it doesn't matter to him where he goes to college as long as he can play basketball.
Bailey is a role player, mainly because Bramlett doesn't know where to play her. She can play underneath. She can step out and hit the jumper. She handles the ball well for a player her size.
Bramlett expects big things out of her next season.
"She's going to give us a different meaning as a team next year, and I've seen that in the last couple of weeks,'' he said. "She has a lot of upside and we really like the way she puts the ball on the floor.
"We'll have to decide if we'll use her at center or on the wing. I'm leaning toward putting Bailey in the post and surrounding her with four guards. We'll see.''
There were times, Bailey said, when she and Taylor would mix it up outside one-on-one. She stopped because, "he always won,'' and now she mostly works in the offseason with her dad.
Bailey doesn't see much of her brother in the offseason because he works at The Market on Herlong. She said when he graduates, she'll have to find a new ride to school.
"We don't even talk much basketball when we are together,'' she said. "But I'm proud of him and he's proud of me.
"Our team deserved to make it back to the playoffs after all we've been though. Last year and this year were fun after we won, I think, only two games my freshman year.''
And has there been any kind of friendly sibling side bet as to which team will last longer in the playoffs"
"Of course not,'' Bailey said.
Class AAAA girls
Mauldin at South Pointe
Byrnes at York
Northwestern at Dorman
Lancaster at Hillcrest
Class AAA boys
Seneca at Chester
Class A girls
Wagener-Salley at Great Falls
Indian Land at Calhoun County
Class AAAA boys
Spartanburg at Fort Mill
Dorman at South Pointe
Northwestern at Byrnes
York at Hillcrest
Class A boys
Ridge Spring-Monetta at Great Falls
Lewisville at Hunter-Kinard-Tyler
Games are at 7 p.m. unless both coaches agreed to play earlier
• Playoff schedule • 3C