Irmo and Lexington went toe-to-toe for three quarters, and it looked like it would be a Region 5-4A tilt that would go down to the wire Friday night.
That was until Ta’Vonne Bond and the Yellow Jackets’ offense began clicking. Bond hit two 3-pointers late in the third quarter to propel an Irmo run, allowing the No. 4 Yellow Jackets to coast to a 69-50 victory. It was Irmo’s 35th consecutive region victory.
“I give the guys a lot of credit for battling through being sluggish, nothing going well and everything being difficult to taking their time, seeing what was there and taking advantage of it,” Irmo coach Tim Whipple said.
Neither team led by more than five points until Bond caught fire. The senior guard scored 10 points over the final 3:20 of the third quarter to give the Yellow Jackets a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
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Bond broke a 33-33 tie with two free throws, added back-to-back 3-pointers, and closed the quarter with a jumper in the lane to give Irmo a 44-38 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Irmo (13-4, 3-0) scored on its first 10 possessions of the fourth quarter for a 65-46 lead with a little over 4 minutes remaining. Several of those baskets came on open lay-ups in the Yellow Jackets’ half-court offense.
“Basketball really is a simple game if you know when to pass, when to shoot and when to dribble,” Whipple said. “It simplifies the game if you just know how to do those three things. What we did there in that run was do those things correctly.”
Lexington coach Bailey Harris saw his team lose for the second game in a row after holding leads into the third quarter. They lost to River Bluff on Tuesday after having a 20-point first-half lead.
“We lost our focus,” Harris said. “The first half, we did a really good job of mixing our defenses and staying where we’re supposed to be. Then, they hit those two 3s and we lost our focus. We gave up some easy lay-ups and uncontested 3s after not getting anything easy in the first half.”
The first half was a showcase of Lexington’s outside shooting and Irmo’s advantage in the paint. Darius Bryant, who led all scorers with 21 points, connected on four of the Wildcats six first half 3-pointers.
The Yellow Jackets were struggling from the field, but had 14 second-chance points in the opening two quarters. Tony Brice and Noah Jenkins did the bulk of the work in the paint and finished with 16 and 11 points, respectively.
“We got some free throws and stick backs,” Whipple said. “That really was the only thing we could do. We didn’t handle their defensive change well.”
But Irmo clamped down on Bryant and Lexington’s outside shooters. The Wildcats (11-7, 1-2) didn’t make a 3-pointer in the second half.
“Defensively, I think we got caught up in the action,” Whipple said. “Then, we go on a run like we did, and it made us not worry about defense. We relaxed and knew what our assignments were, and executed it very well.”
Harris was frustrated by the 10 second-half turnovers and, by the time the offense began to find its range, it was too late.
“We turned it over 10 times in the second half, so that limited the number of shots we were getting,” Harris said. “It was frustrating to watch.”
I: Ta’Vonne Bond 18, Tony Brice 16, Noah Jenkins 11, RJ Gunn 10, Edwards 3, Sweat 3, Wilson 2, Jamison 2, Henryhand 2, Hill 2. L: Darius Bryant 21, Shuler 9, Shackelford 6, Bethea 6, Haney 4, Rumph 4.
Girls Lexington 57, Irmo 47
Destinee Langford scored 15 points and Taylor Foulks chipped in 14 as the Wildcats snapped the Yellow Jackets’ 23-game region winning streak with a 57-47 overtime victory. Lexington (10-6, 3-0) is the lone remaining unbeaten team in region play.
Foulks scored six of her points in the extra period, while Langford scored four. Foulks gave Lexington the lead for good on the first possession of overtime.
Irmo (8-9, 2-1) forced overtime with a fourth-quarter rally. The Yellow Jackets outscored the Wildcats 13-4, and forced the extra period when Sam Fant scored with 6 seconds remaining.
I: Courtney Evans 15, Taylor DeMoss 10, Fant 9, Johnson 8, Hampton 3, Carter 2. L: Destinee Langford 15, Taylor Foulks 14, Olivia Thompson 11, McClary 9, A. Langford 4, Lesesne 4.