COLUMBIA — Irmo flexed its basketball muscle and showed flashes of superiority. The Yellow Jackets were too much for the Goose Creek Gators, who couldn’t buy a bucket when it mattered most.
The Yellow Jackets, No. 1 in the state from wire to wire, capped a perfect season with a 65-46 victory over Goose Creek on Friday night in front of approximately 7,000 fans at the Colonial Life Arena.
Irmo, No. 21 in the USA Today Super 25 poll, finished with a 29-0 record while the Gators finished at 22-5.
“Our guys, all year long, have been a very confident group,” Irmo coach Tim Whipple said. “They just did a heck of a job. I felt if we could score, we would be OK.”
The Yellow Jackets outshot and outrebounded the Gators, who also lost out in the turnover category. The Yellow Jackets shot 54 percent from the field, collected 38 rebounds and turned the ball over 12 times. Goose Creek hit only 38 percent and had 18 rebounds. The Gators turned the ball over 17 times.
The biggest factor was points in the paint. The taller Irmo squad outscored Goose Creek, 36-8, inside.
Goose Creek struggled in last week’s Lower State championship against Sumter, hitting only 11 of 46 from the field. The Gators struggled again Friday, hitting only 5 for 25 in the first half and 14 for 50 for the game.
“The kids got a little out of rhythm. We took some bad shots early,” said Blake Hall, who was seeking his second state championship in two years as a head coach. “We were a little tight early and took some bad shots. You can’t do that against a team like Irmo.”
Shaquille Patrick was the only Gator to score in the first eight minutes, hitting three 3-pointers. He finished with 18 points, hitting 6 of 12 from 3-point land.
Dantez Bennamon hit only 2 of 17 from the field last week in the 55-45 victory over Sumter but scored 24 points, thanks to a 19-for-19 effort from the foul line.
Friday, he finished with 11 points, struggling from the field, hitting only 3 of 17. He shot only five free throws against Irmo, making four.
The Gators were attempting to give the Lowcountry its third state championship since 2008. Summerville won it that year and the Gators claimed the top prize the next year. But the Yellow Jackets had too much talent and denied the Gators.
Justin McKie, a 6-5 senior headed to play for South Carolina, scored 14 points in the first half, matching Goose Creek’s entire output. The son of former USC star B.J. McKie hit 6 of 12 from the field and grabbed five rebounds to lead the Yellow Jackets to a 19-13 advantage on the boards in the first half. He had a massive slam dunk with 4:33 left in the game, bringing the Irmo fans to their feet to give Irmo an 18-point lead.
McKie finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Detrek Browning scored 16 and Jevante Gross 10.
The Gators started two juniors and a sophomore and will have state expereince under its belt.
“We will go to work,” Hall said. “The good thing about coaching is you get a fresh start every year.”
Goose Creek (46): Patrick 18, Bennamon 11, Singleton 6 , Robinson 8, Alston 3.
Irmo: (65): Gross 10, Howard 7, McKie 20, Browning 16, Favor 6, Ealey 2, Hill 4,
Goose Creek 9 5 12 20 --46
Irmo 16 12 16 21 --65
Records: Irmo 29-0, Goose Creek 22-5.