Khalil Small was probably the most unlikely person on Tuesday to take a final shot with the game in the balance.
It wasn’t the play called in the timeout huddle, but Irmo’s senior point guard calmly drilled a straight-away 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Yellow Jackets a 63-60 road victory over rival Dutch Fork.
Small had taken two shots before that game-winner, both misses. But after getting a Heyward Goodson pass from the wing, he didn’t hesitate.
“We were running the play called in the huddle and I thought one of the wings was going to shoot it, but I called for the ball and just let it go,” Small said. “It was unbelievable.”
Small was crushed in a mob scene of teammates and Irmo students near mid-court after the shot hit nothing but net. Irmo coach Tim Whipple agreed that’s not the way the final shot was drawn up.
“Obviously, it got to a situation that was desperation,” Whipple said. “He’s a good shooter, he just wasn’t the one supposed to be taking the shot. But it got down to the end and he had to have it. At least in that situation, with the score tied, we knew we had overtime. I’m not pleased with the execution but real excited by the shot.”
Dutch Fork coach Matt Brown wasn’t expecting Small to shoot, either.
“He hadn’t hit a shot all game,” Brown said. “We were expecting Xavier (Hill) from the wing or something in the high post, but you can’t do much when the guy makes a shot like he did.”
The two teams played a month ago with Irmo (13-1) claiming a 21-point victory at home.
Hill, who had a game-high 23 points with six 3 pointers, kept Irmo in control through the first three quarters. The senior had 13 points in the first half to help build a 39-32 lead at the half.
Dutch Fork (9-4) trimmed the lead to 39-38 early in the fourth, but Hill scored seven straight points, including a 4-point play, to push the lead back to 46-39. But the Silver Foxes closed the quarter on a 14-6 run to take a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Christian Mills, who scored 18 points, got things going with five points, and Deion Frasier closed the period with seven consecutive points that included two rebound baskets and a 3-pointer for the 53-52 cushion.
Jevante Gross gave Irmo the lead back with a layup to open the fourth quarter. The Yellow Jackets extended the lead to as many as five points, but Watson Harris and Freddie Poole scored five points to tie the game at 60 with 35 seconds left.
That set the stage for Small’s game-winner.
Jarvis Howard added 14 points for Irmo and Gross scored 10. Poole and Harris complemented Mills with 12 and 11 points respectively.