Trojans edge Byrnes, prepare for date with top seed North Augusta

Northwestern's Chris Belton leaped to swat Nori Johnson's shot as the Trojans outlasted Byrnes in the first round of the playoffs.
Northwestern's Chris Belton leaped to swat Nori Johnson's shot as the Trojans outlasted Byrnes in the first round of the playoffs.

DUNCAN -- Northwestern's advancement to the second round of the playoffs certainly wasn't a freebie, but it was those kinds of shots that got the Trojans the win.

The Trojans went 10-for-10 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to win 60-57 at Byrnes on Wednesday.

Being that proficient from the foul line is new for Northwestern (14-11), as the Trojans shot 49.6 percent during the regular season.

"I don't know," Northwestern coach Mike Gossett said of his team's hot shooting. "Sometimes they make them, sometimes they don't. Tonight we made them."

"You don't expect that out of 16-year-old kids," Byrnes coach Rick Leonard said. "If it happens for you, you're ecstatic."

The Rebels (15-9) seemed in control, jumping to a 22-12 lead in the second quarter.

Northwestern's defense quickly stiffened and the offense went on a 14-4 run to finish the half.

"It's nothing new to us," Gossett said of being down. "We seem to do that. We miss some shots and teams get up on us. Our defense is our glue. I thought we played really solid defense all night."

"We took an early lead and had some opportunities to finish and we didn't," Leonard said.

Byrnes had a chance to send it into overtime, but the shot just wouldn't fall.

Nori Johnson's 3-pointer from the top of the key with four seconds left rattled three times on the rim, looked like it would fall and then fell to the floor.

"It went in pretty deep," Leonard said. "We had our best shooter shooting it and it just didn't go in."

The Rebels rallied from a nine-point fourth quarter deficit to give themselves a chance in the final minutes to get the win.

Down 56-49 with 1:35 left, Johnson hit his second 3-pointer and then the Rebels stole the inbounds pass. Torian Richardson hit a layup to cut the lead to two points with 1:16 left.

After Northwestern's Will King hit two free throws, Anthony Johnson knocked down another 3-pointer for Byrnes to make it a 58-57 lead.

Byrnes had a chance to take the lead after Anthony Johnson knocked away a pass and Jason Logan scooped it up with 44 seconds left, but the Rebels committed their 24th turnover to give Northwestern the ball with 15.4 seconds left.

Northwestern's Labris Adams had 23 points while King added 11.

"To win on the road at Byrnes with the team that they've got, I'm just ecstatic," Gossett said.

• GREAT FALLS 83, RIDGE SPRING-MONETTA 27 -- At Great Falls, the game plan was simple in the Class A playoff opener against Ridge Spring-Monetta.

"I told the guys to pass it around at least three times (before taking a shot), don't shoot beyond the 3-point line, and just sit back and play half-court defense," Great Falls coach John Smith said. "That would at least burn 30 seconds off each possession."

Those are contrary to what the Red Devils usually do to be successful. But Smith was trying to display sportsmanship against Ridge Spring-Monetta, who entered with mostly a JV roster. Ridge Spring-Monetta was forced to play without at least four starters after being disciplined after a post-game altercation during the regular season.

With the opponent clearly outmanned, Smith did well in showing mercy. Great Falls (22-3) opened with its patented full-court pressing defense and capitalized on numerous turnovers. Before fans could get rested in their seats, the Red Devils were well on their way to the second round with a 26-7 first-quarter lead.

That lead nearly doubled at the half with Great Falls in command, 49-14. The Red Devils followed Smith's instructions in the second half, but still ended up taking high-percentage shots underneath down the stretch.

Great Falls forward Jeremy Simpson, one of the team's seniors, described the team's performance as a good first step in the postseason.

"Well, we are at the point in the season now that if you lose, you go home," Simpson said. "So tonight, we got good work in on defense, our press and everything else.

"What we must do now is take one game at a time and play whoever comes in the next round."

Great Falls hosts Greenville Tech at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

• HILLCREST 80, YORK 42 -- At Simpsonville, Hillcrest officially put the rest of the state on alert, opening the Class AAAA playoffs with an overwhelming victory over York.

The numbers and facts for the Rams showed just how dominant the victory was. Center Steadman Short equaled the Cougars' offensive output in the first half with 16 points. The Rams ended the first half with as many points as the Cougars scored all game. All 15 players on Hillcrest's roster scored.

"That is the most athletic team we have seen all year long," York coach Kendall McCarter said. "Nobody in our region is that athletic. And when athletes like that are hitting their shots, they are hard to beat."

OB Love led the Cougars (16-8) with 18 points.