The Irmo boys basketball team opened defense of its Class 4A state championship with a resounding 75-35 victory against Greenwood on Thursday night.
Xavier Hill scored 18 points and Jevante Gross added 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Yellow Jackets never trailed and built a 28-point lead by the half.
It was the start coach Tim Whipple was looking for from his his senior-laden squad. The Yellow Jackets start six seniors and were able to go deep into the bench for most of the second half. Irmo improved to 103-8 over the past four seasons, and has won two of the past three state championships.
“Getting ready for the playoffs is totally different from playing in the regular season,” Whipple said. “With the leadership we have and what we’ve done the last three or four years, hopefully, we understand how important it is for us to be mentally and physically ready for each game.”
In the girls game, Irmo used a huge second quarter to pull away from Hillcrest and cruise to a 57-40 victory to advance to the second round against Spartanburg on Saturday. The girls game will tip off at 5:30 p.m., and the boys will face Northwestern in the second game.
In the boys game, Irmo (25-1) clamped down on defense from the tip and never relented. The Jackets held Greenwood (12-10) to 3-of-25 shooting from the field in the first half, and led 35-7 at intermission. They also forced 13 turnovers, 10 coming in the first quarter when they held a 19-5 lead.
Eight players scored in the first half, and Hill outscored the Eagles by a 10-7 margin in the first half.
But the defensive effort pleased Whipple the most. Greenwood didn’t reach double figures until 4:08 remained in the third quarter.
“It’s been the case a lot this year, but our defense got our offense going,” Whipple said. “Once we started getting a few steals and easy looks, that got everything going. Getting that quick lead was able to calm everything down.”
The girls contest was closer than Williams had hoped. Irmo (24-1) had an 11-2 lead a little over four minutes into the contest that could have been much higher had it converted several layups. The Rams (10-6) closed the first quarter on a 10-2 run to close within 13-12.
But the Yellow Jackets outscored Hillcrest 18-2 in the second quarter. They limited the Rams to 1-of-10 shooting and forced 10 turnovers to stretch the lead to 31-14 at the break. Tyziya Moody had 13 of her 23 points in the first half. Williams thought the only senior starter for Irmo was a big difference in the game.
“Thank goodness for Tyziya Moody,” Williams said. “I don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t played.”
Even with the 17-point win, Williams was not pleased with the effort. She said her team must play better against Spartanburg on Saturday.
“It was not a good performance on our part,” Williams said. “It didn’t look like we were focused to me. We missed a lot of layups, didn’t box out. We had a good game plan but just played flat. We have to regroup. If we play like this again, our season will be done.”