Irmo had some uncharacteristic losses in December. The Yellow Jackets opened the season with an overtime loss to Greer, had back-to-back losses to Blythewood and Ridge View, and a loss to Eastside in a post-Christmas tournament.
But since then, things seemed to have come together. Ta’Vonne Bond scored 16 points to lead four players in double figures to give Irmo its ninth-straight win and 37th region win in a row with a 78-45 defeat of River Bluff on Friday night.
Irmo coach Tim Whipple has liked his team’s focus and intensity in recent weeks.
“We have a group that has to be totally focused and ready to play to be successful,” Whipple said. “I think we’re getting over that hump, and that preparation and focus is important. That’s what we’ve done differently from the earlier part of the season.”
It was a complete effort against the Gators. The Yellow Jackets scored on every possession but two in the first quarter, and led 20-7 after the opening eight minutes. The hot shooting continued for most of the first half – Irmo made six 3-pointers and finished 15-of-28 from the field in building a 41-23 lead at the break.
“I think the last couple of games, we’ve shot the ball extremely well,” Whipple said. “As the case is with most teams, if you shoot the ball well, you’re usually a better team. We got a lot of offensive rebounds early for some stick backs, then we shot the ball well. Once we got the lead, everything became easy for us.”
The final possession of the first half probably summed up the night best. Bond shot a 3-pointer from the corner that hit the back rim, bounced up high off the top of the backboard and in for the basket.
Bond chalked it up to having one of the outings where everything clicked.
“I think it was just one of those nights,” the senior guard said. “We executed very well offensively. In practice, we’re going hard and trying different things, and it seems to be working.”
The offensive outburst continued in the second half, but the defense in the third quarter was top notch as well. Irmo (15-4, 5-0 Region 5-4A) limited River Bluff to two points in the third quarter on a 0-for-10 performance from the field with seven turnovers.
“I like to feel like we’re relentless defensively,” Whipple said. “We don’t let up. Teams have success against us at times, but I think as the game goes on, it starts to bother teams. We didn’t get many turnovers in the first half, but were able to create them in the second half.”
The lead allowed Irmo to substitute freely most of the game. Sophomore big man Winston Hill came off the bench with 13 points and controlled the paint while he was on the floor. Hill was seeing limited minutes early in the season, but he’s getting more playing time since region play began.
Whipple believes he’s going to have to be a factor in February if the Yellow Jackets are going to be a serious contender for another run at a state championship.
“He’s a sophomore with some size and he’s still growing,” Whipple said. “Even when he doesn’t score points, he’s getting rebounds and clogging up the middle with a big body. If he continues to work and get better, he’s somebody that can help us a lot down the road.”
River Bluff lost for the third straight game after overcoming a big deficit to defeat Lexington on Jan. 12. Jamie Clark led the Gators with 10 points.
I: Ta’Vonne Bond 16, Dre’von Sweat 13, Winston Hill 13, RJ Gunn 10, Jenkins 9, Jamison 4, Brice 4, Felder 4, Henryhand 3, Suber 2. RB: Jamie Clarke 10, Tillmon 7, Proffitt 6, Pirie 5, Drumgoole 5, Kight 4, Adams 3, Cribb 3, Smalls 2.
Girls Irmo 56, River Bluff 30
Taylor DeMoss scored 20 points and Shikira Carter added 10 points to lead the Yellow Jackets. The Yellow Jackets (9-10, 3-2) outscored the Gators 16-6 in the second quarter to take control. DeMoss scored eight points in the period – including two of her five 3-pointers.
Ryan Scott scored 18 points for River Bluff (7-11, 0-5).
I: Taylor DeMoss 20, Shikira Carter 10, Fant 9, Hampton 6, Scott 5, Johnson 2, Woodruff 2, Stanton 2. RB: Ryan Scott 18, Coulter 5, Kinard 4, Howell 2, Sims 1.