Whether it was good defense or a red-hot offense, the Northwestern Trojans did what they wanted in the early stages of Friday's rivalry contest against Rock Hill.
The Trojans' defense forced several Bearcats turnovers and used that to trigger up-tempo fast break points for a 17-point lead in the first quarter.
From that point, the Bearcats were never able to trim the deficit to within single digits as the Trojans cruised to the 68-53 victory in Region 3-AAAA action.
"Defensively, we did a great job and we were able to share the ball," Northwestern coach Mike Gossett said about the early momentum. "We talked about there being a three-to-four minute stretch which would be important," to hold off potential Bearcat runs in the second half.
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"But we were able to get steals and get high-percentage lay-ups."
Guards Keith Bell and Montrice Caldwell combined for 29 points with 15 and 14, respectively.
The Trojans backcourt combined for nine points in the first quarter. Bell drained a 3-pointer and added a feed on the fast break for a layup, putting the Trojans in command, 18-6, with 2:41 remaining. He penetrated for an inside hoop, and Stuart Hunt closed the quarter with a 3-pointer from the corner for a 23-6 Trojan lead.
Center Rontavious McClure, Bell, and Kennedy scored the first three hoops in the second quarter, keeping the Trojans in control, 29-6.
Rock Hill, meanwhile, faced a constant uphill climb from that point. The Bearcats did close the second quarter with a 6-0 run and put themselves within striking distance with a 14-point deficit, 33-19, at the half.
The Bearcats got to within 13, 50-37, when Jamel Jones got the crowd cheering with a breakaway dunk early in the fourth. However, the Trojans settled down when LaThomas Long sank a 3-pointer and added a lay-up for a 62-39 lead with 3:41 remaining in the contest.
Long fed McClure for an alley-oop dunk and 68-40 advantage and that put the exclamation point on the second Trojan victory in region play after an upset win over Lancaster on Tuesday.
"We talked about that," Gossett said about a potential letdown from the win over Lancaster. "That is why I am glad that we were playing Rock Hill tonight. They will always be up to play against Rock Hill."
Bell agreed, saying that the stakes are always high in the crosstown rivalry.
"We are always hyped to play them," he said. "It was important for us to settle down and run the floor. We played good team defense and that was the real key for us tonight."
ROCK HILL 53
Rock Hill -- Charles Johnson 1, Jamel Jones 9, Eric Robinson 6, Will Killian 7, Trey McCullough 2, Matt Harvey 6, Dre Williams 8, Octavious Thompson 2, Roderick Howell 10, Tre McCullough 3.
Northwestern -- Mustafa Love 2, LaThomas Long 14, Jalen Orr 9, Montrice Kennedy 14, Keith Bell 15, Julius Durham 1, Rontavious McClure 10, Kendrick Cauthen 3.
3-pointers -- Rock Hill 1 (Williams); Northwestern 4 (Long 2, Bell, Orr). Fouled out -- Northwestern: Kennedy. Total fouls -- Rock Hill 14, Northwestern 20.
Records: Northwestern 10-7, 2-1 in Region 3-AAAA; Rock Hill 8-9, 0-3.