From start to finish, and every second in between, the West Ashley boys basketball team overwhelmed South Aiken on Tuesday, easily posting a 63-49 win to advance to the Class AAAA Lower State championship game.
The Wildcats, now 21-4, will play perennial Class AAAA power Irmo on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Florence Civic Center.
West Ashley scored the first six points of the game, running off to an 18-8 lead after the first quarter and were never seriously threatened the rest of the way.
Sophomore guard Skylar Williams and senior guard David Hodije each scored 18 points, while sophomore forward Shelton Brown added 11 to pace the Wildcats.
“These kids don’t believe in their limitations,” said West Ashley coach Ronnie DuPre, who typically does not start a senior though Hodije is the team’s leading scorer. “I see their limitations in practice every day but they do not believe they have limitations so they think they are just as good as everybody else. They play with a lot of confidence.”
West Ashley’s confidence was clear early as Williams scored the first two baskets of the game in the first 90 seconds. What also was apparent was West Ashley’s quickness advantage against a taller South Aiken squad.
“We were hoping their size mismatch on one end would be our quickness mismatch on the other,” DuPre said. “It was kind of a battle of who would give in first — would they go small to match us or would we have to go bigger to match them. They ended up going small, which was to our advantage. Our kids played well.”
The Wildcats continued to run and score into the second quarter, holding a 37-15 halftime lead. All that was left was to survive any run by South Aiken in the third quarter. The Thoroughbreds, led by senior Chance Prandy’s 16 points, did manage an early 6-2 run in the period but the Wildcats opened up a 49-23 lead with under two minutes to play in the third period.
Only a late flurry in the final minutes made the final score respectable, but the game was a testament to how West Ashley — the Region 7-AAAA runner-up to James Island — has played in its three playoff victories.
“We have played really well in the playoffs,” DuPre said. “With our lack of size, every game is a difficult matchup. We just do what we do and hope it’s enough to win. We’re a good young team and we’re playing well. I am really happy for them.”
On Saturday, DuPre will take on Irmo coach Tim Whipple, one of the most successful prep coaches in the state. Whipple gave DuPre his start in coaching so the relationship between the two is very strong.
“He was my mentor,” DuPre said of Whipple “He is one of my best friends in coaching and he’s the best coach in this state. They are the landmark program in this state and it’s an honor to get a chance to play them.”