Irmo and Richland Northeast came into Tuesday night's Region 5-4A showdown with two different missions. The Yellow Jackets wanted to keep pace with Lexington for first place, while the Cavaliers wanted to pull the upset to garner a better playoff seed.
Give the advantage to Irmo. Richland Northeast's Travis Hammond missed a driving layup at the buzzer to allow the Yellow Jackets to hold on for a 53-52 victory.
The Yellow Jackets (16-7, 10-3) assured themselves of a home playoff game and have an outside shot at finishing in the top spot.
Even though Richland Northeast (14-9, 7-6) had the final chance to win it, Irmo could have put the game away earlier if not for miscues on their own part. Jordan Roper had a chance to make it a two-possession game with 28 seconds remaining but only made 1-of-2 free throws that left it at 53-50. Roper led Irmo with 17 points.
The Cavaliers missed a jumper, but got the rebound and called timeout with 14 seconds remaining. Roper fouled Ryan Quarles with 10 seconds remaining, and Quarles made both free throws to make it 53-52.
Irmo's Jeremy Clinckscales was fouled on the inbounds play, and he missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with eight seconds remaining,
Hammonds got the rebound of the missed free throw and dribbled length of the court before his layup went over the rim as time expired.
"We were out of timeouts and I had told our point guard to try and get the ball and go, but they took the outlet pass away from him," Richland Northeast coach Jason Powell said. "Travis tried to make a play and he got close and if he uses the backboard maybe it might have went in."
Irmo coach Tim Whipple lauded his team's defensive effort. RNE was shooting 50 percent coming into the fourth quarter, but went 3-for-12 from the field in the final eight minutes.
"We did such a fantastic job defensively the last eight or nine possessions, but we had to because we were so terrible with the last eight or nine offensive possessions," Whipple said.
It might not have been that close at the end but Irmo went 7-for-16 from the free throw line.
"You are extremely lucky if you win one-point games when you shot the way we did from the free throw line," Whipple said. "That is usually the deciding factor in a close game."
"But hey, we keep telling the guys over and over to find a way. Tonight, they found a way. I'm going to enjoy the win because it was an important one, but at the same time we have to learn to make a little bit better decisions at the end of the game."
RNE - Jared Guest 15, Quinn Martin 13, Travis Hammond 12, Quarles 6, Tention 3, Whaley 3. I - Jordan Roper 17, David Frazier 15, Jeremy Clinckscales 11, Jo. Clinckscales 6, Ranly 2, Amedee 2.