During the months of rehabilitation for a torn ACL and meniscus, R.J. Gunn dreamed of moments liked the one on Saturday night.
The Irmo senior forward hit the game-winning shot with 0.5 seconds left to lift the Yellow Jackets to a 66-64 win over West Florence in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Irmo will travel to Goose Creek on Tuesday with a chance to advance to the Lower State championship on Feb. 25 at the Florence Civic Center.
“It’s something you always want as a basketball player, to lead your team,” Gunn said. “That’s what made the rehab fun and kept me pushing through the hard times.”
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On the final possession, Irmo coach Tim Whipple said he tried to run a couple of different plays but just wanted to get some movement going to the basket. Guard Noah Jenkins took the ball at the top of the key and dribbled to the left side and dumped it down to Gunn. The senior took one dribble and hit a left-handed hook shot over Jalen Cameron for the winner.
“We didn’t have a set to run and I just tried to get my guy in the post,” Gunn said. “And I just gave him the hook. It is the same move I work on all the time.”
“R.J. just made a wonderful move and basket,” Whipple said. “It is a credit to him to be able to accomplish what he has. My God, I can’t imagine what it is like to come back from a surgery like that.
“I was extremely proud the last minute and a half we took care of the ball and made some good decisions and had two big huge baskets.”
Gunn tore his ACL and meniscus during the Capital City All-Star Classic in March and had surgery in April. He said he is about 90-95 percent but was good enough for the Yellow Jackets but looked like his old self against the Knights.
Gunn finished with a team-high 22 points, and Jenkins added 12.
West Florence’s Sharone Wright Jr. led all scorers 24 points, 16 in the second half. Wright Jr., the son of former Clemson star and NBA player Sharone Wright and guard Travion McCray started hitting deep 3-pointers as the Knights rallied from an eight-point deficit with 5:35 left.
McCray and Wright hit back-to-back 3-pointers as West Florence took a 61-58 lead with 2:15 left. Irmo answered with a Winston Hill basket, and Trevez Caldwell’s floater in the lane gave the Yellow Jackets a 62-61 lead with 47 seconds.
Raekwon Heath drew a charge on West Florence’s next possession and then gave Irmo a 64-61 lead. WF’s guard Jalen Cameron tied it up by converting on a 3-point play with 14.3 seconds left.
Cameron finished with 16 points.
WF: Jalen Cameron 16, Sharone Wright 24, Travion McCray 13, Stewart 4, Perez 7. I: Caldwell 8, Edwards 4, Hill 9, R.J. Gunn 22, Noah Jenkins 12, Heath 5, Henryhand 6.