If Irmo keeps playing at the level they maintained during Monday night’s 84-41 dismantling of Spartanburg, long-time coach Tim Whipple admitted his team will be a hard out.
The unbeaten and nationally ranked Yellow Jackets (26-0) steamrolled the visiting Vikings by halftime of the delayed Class 4A second round playoff game and turned their attention to tonight’s contest against once-beaten South Pointe.
Since a weather delay pushed the Irmo game from Saturday until Monday, there was an option to delay tonight’s quarterfinal game until Wednesday. South Pointe, which eliminated T.L. Hanna on Saturday, elected to play tonight. That suited Whipple and his team just fine.
“On a journey, there’s always a lot of obstacles,” Whipple said. “How you handle those obstacles determine if you make it to your final destination. Can we handle it? We’ll see.”
They wasted little time in taking care of Spartanburg (14-10).
A shaky first quarter saw Irmo turn it over an uncharacteristic eight times, but they were able to jump to a 13-6 lead behind seven points from Justin McKie. But as ugly as the first quarter was, the second quarter was a thing of beauty for Yellow Jackets faithful.
Spurred on by the play of McKie and fellow senior Detrek Browning, Irmo was 12-of-13 from the field, a perfect 3-of-3 from beyond the 3-point line and 9-of-9 from the free throw line in sprinting to a 36-point second quarter.
McKie, a South Carolina commitment, had 19 of his 21 points by the half, and Browning scored 16 of his 18 points in the second-quarter blitz. Both players were all-state selections, and the first half displayed those talents.
“We know our defense is going to fuel our offense, and tonight we were able to hit shots,” McKie said. “When we are able to hit shots and get our defense to lock people down, we’re pretty hard to stop.”
Irmo scored on 16-of-19 second quarter possessions and were 18-of-24 from the field in the opening half.
“We haven’t had too many 36-point quarters that’s for sure,” Whipple said. “I think when we create turnovers and are scoring offensively and scoring off of our defense, that’s how you get a 36-point quarter. This wasn’t just us making shots, it was defense creating steals and getting some easy shots.”
Irmo finished with 18 steals, with McKie and Browning each collecting three apiece, and that contributed to 28 Spartanburg turnovers. Even when the Vikings weren’t turning it over, they had trouble attacking the basket against the Yellow Jackets’ zone.
Spartanburg shot 33 percent (18-of-54) for the game while Irmo had that many field goals by the half.
“My main fear is offensively, us not performing well,” Whipple said. “I think once we get going, because we do a really great job on defense, we’re a good offensive team. Our defense was really solid, and that made us perform at a high level offensively.”
The lead was 49-19 at the half, and that allowed Whipple to substitute liberally in the second half. Ryan Favor came off the bench to add 11 points as the starters played fewer than six minutes in the second half. Twelve of the 14 players on the roster scored and the added rest for the starters could help with the quick turnaround for today’s game.
“As a team we know we have to take care of business to reach the ultimate goal,” McKie said. “No matter when we play, coach Whipple told us we have to come out and take of business.”