For one of the few times this season, the James Island Trojans never trailed in a basketball game. And this game was the biggest of the season to date.
James Island jumped out to a 12-0 lead and led wire to wire in beating West Ashley, 62-60, in a battle of teams that entered the game unbeaten in Region 7-AAAA play.
The Trojans took command of the region race with the win, improving to 5-0 in the league and 13-3 overall. West Ashley, the state’s ninth-ranked team in AAAA, dropped to 13-4 overall and 4-1 in region play.
Anchoring James Island’s effort were the three returning starters from last year’s region championship team. Juniors Vince Cole (21 points), Jordan McDaniel (19 points) and Maurice Hardiman (17 points) combined for 57 of James Island’s 62 points.
“We knew coming into the game those three would have to play well and have good games, and all three responded the way veterans should respond,” coach Stan Wilkins said. “At different points of the game, each of the three sort of carried the load, but in the end it’s a team game and this was a team win. Lot of guys did some little things throughout the game to help us win.”
It took only two minutes for the Trojans to build a 12-0 lead and the margin stayed at 12 (24-12) after the first quarter.
West Ashley, however, got hot from beyond the arc as senior David Hodije (18 points) hit three consecutive 3-pointers and the Wildcats cut the lead to 24-22 with 3:40 left in the second period. James Island responded by scoring eight of the next 10 points and led, 32-24, at halftime.
“We knew they would make their run and they really shoot the three ball well,” Wilkins said. “I was just proud to see us finish the second quarter strong and get the lead back up to eight.”
West Ashley, which finished the game with 10 3-pointers, got within six at 41-35 on Shelton Brown’s two free throws with 3:04 left in the third. Hardiman closed the quarter with a pair of buckets and James Island held a 47-39 advantage after three periods.
Cole stretched the lead to 11 with a 3 at the 5:05 mark of the fourth quarter and later gave the Trojans a 56-46 lead with 2:10 left on a layup.
West Ashley hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the final seven seconds to make the final score appear closer than the game played out.
Brown also finished with 18 points for West Ashley while Skylar Hill added 17.
“Great to be 5-0 in the region but it’s only halfway home,” Wilkins said. “We want to be proud of what we have done so far, but we have to be mature and understand that now we’re the hunted. Every team is going to give us their best shot. We have to be ready. We’ll take 5-0 tonight, but tomorrow it’s back to work for us.”