By CT McDonald
A 59-54 varsity basketball win at Goose Creek sends the Irmo boys to the semifinals, while a 51-36 loss at the same school ends the Irmo girls’ season.
On consecutive days early this week, both varsity Yellow Jacket basketball teams faced Goose Creek on the road in the third round of the lower state playoffs, and they each came away with a different result.
In the 51-36 loss at Goose Creek, Irmo’s varsity girls (20-7, 11-1) faced a Gator team (25-1, 14-0) with an extremely effective defense, as well as an to score. And score and defend they did against the visiting Yellow Jackets, but not to the extent they have grown accustomed to.
While taking a loss, the Irmo girls created a way to score more points against the Lady Gators than most opponents have this season. In the playoffs alone, Goose Creek defeated South Florence by a 43-point margin (64-21) in the first round, and then beat Lexington by a 39-point margin (68-29) in the second round, before putting away the Yellow Jackets by a 15-point margin Monday, this week, in the third round.
The point margins against South Florence and Lexington are more common throughout their schedule this year than margins of just a few points. There are no close games on their published record at maxpreps.com. The Lady Gators’ only loss this season occurred against the midlands area Ridge View Blazers in the final round of the Coastal Division of the huge Carolina Invitational Tournament during the winter holiday break.
In the past five seasons Irmo has finished in the first round once (versus Dutch Fork, the eventual 2012-13 state champion), the second round once (versus Sumter, the 2015-16 state runner-up behind Spring Valley), the third round twice (versus Greenwood, the 2013-14 state runner-up behind Spring Valley and this year versus Goose Creek), and in the 2014-15 state semifinals versus Goose Creek.
Head Coach Monica Williams, staff and players have established a tradition of success that Irmo opponents have and will find difficult to defeat, and most often don’t.
Another successful head coach, the 700-plus game winning Coach Tim Whipple, took his team to Goose Creek Tuesday to contest the third round, and, with the 59-54 victory, the Irmo varsity boys advanced to Saturday’s lower state championship round at the Florence Civic Center against region mate Blythewood.
Irmo (22-5, 10-2) split games with Blythewood (21-5, 10-2) during the Region 5-5A schedule, and the two teams completed the regular season in a tie for first place in the region.
Irmo has defeated Wando, West Florence and Goose Creek to arrive at the state semifinal round, while Blythewood has beat Stratford, Summerville and Lexington to get to the semifinals.
Looks like the Yellow Jackets and Bengals will have an opportunity to break the 1-1 tie in a game of familiar rivals that have been down this road before. This one should be high school basketball at its best.
Irmo virus Blythewood Saturday at the Florence Civic Center at 6:30 pm, according to the South Carolina High School League.
Winner advances to the March 3 state finals at the Colonial Life Arena against the winner of the Gaffney/Dorman upper state title game.