It is early December in a football-rich city. Basketball teams will need a couple more weeks to clean up their acts.
Northwestern and Rock Hill went at it Friday night. The Trojans came away with a 53-44 victory on their home court to improve to 3-0 on the year. But coach Mike Gossett wasn't gloating after the game.
He was glad to get the win but was disappointed in his team's ballhandling and free-throw shooting. The Trojans turned the ball over more than 30 times, according to the home scorebook. They made just 17-of-37 from the foul line.
Still, Northwestern staved off two second-half rallies from the Bearcats to get the win.
"A win's a win. We had lots of turnovers, missed layups, missed points in the paint, missed stickbacks. We probably gave up 20 to 25 points right there," Gossett said.
Northwestern used a 10-0 run to start the second quarter to stake itself to a 19-8 lead.
Cordarrelle Patterson, a standout wide receiver on the Trojans' football team, scored all six of his points in the spurt. He converted an offensive rebound to open the quarter and followed with a steal and layup.
After a pair of free throws by teammate Drayton Wade, Patterson made another steal and drove three-quarters of the court for a slam dunk to fire up the home crowd.
Wade capped the run with a reverse layup.
Rock Hill called timeout to regroup.
Bearcats coach Bobby Stevens encouraged his team to drive to the basket. A couple of football players, Jatavius Stewart and Xavier McFadden, were listening.
The duo led Rock Hill back on a 9-2 run doing just what Stevens asked for.
"We had the opportunity to quit, but we didn't. I'm just pleased with the kids' effort. We didn't convert as much as we needed, but the timing will come on offense," Stevens said.
Stevens had to pull up several JV players to practice in the preseason. He only had post players to work with, the rest of his team was still on the football field.
Northwestern pushed the lead back to 10 by the end of the third quarter. But Rock Hill wasn't done.
The Bearcats applied the defense to hold the Trojans scoreless for the first 4:24 of the final period.
McFadden scored on a runner in the lane to cut the lead to 44-36. Aaron Hemphill hit a jumper, and Dominic Cathcart scored on a drive to the hoop.
Suddenly it was a four-point game, 44-40.
Northwestern settled into their offense after Gossett used a pair of timeouts.
Labris Adams hit a free throw. Chris Belton scored inside after getting a pretty pass from Hemphill to extend the lead to 49-42 with just over a minute left.
Belton and Adams connected on four free throws in the final minutes to seal the win.
Belton posted game-highs with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Adams netted 11 points.
McFadden and Stewart led the Bearcats' balanced attack with 9 points each. Gayland Jenkins added 8 points and 10 boards for Rock Hill.
"Maybe when we both find our offensive rhythm, we'll be okay," Gossett said.