The Irmo Yellow Jackets, behind the scoring of 6-6 junior center RJ Gunnand’s game high 20 points, defeated the West Ashley Wildcats, 54-31, on Saturday night at the Florence Civic Center to advance to the Class AAAA state championship next Friday in Columbia.

Irmo improved to 22-5, while West Ashley fell to 21-6.

It was the first Lower State final for the Wildcats in school history.

West Ashley was led by Skyler Williams and David Hodije with 10 points each.

The Wildcats were plagued by turnovers all night. They trailed 22-11 at the half as they committed 15 turnovers and finished with 22 on the night, 10 more than their season average.

The game was a matchup of teacher and pupil. West Ashley coach Ronnie DuPre spent his first five years as an assistant on Irmo coach Tim Whipple’s staff.

“Both teams were tight”, said Whipple. “We were able to take the lead because of their turnovers.”

When asked about beating his former assistant, Whipple said, “This was hard. Ronnie and I have a very special relationship.”

The Wildcats, who have been deadly from 3-point range all year, finished only 3 for 15 behind the arc. Their leading 3-point shooter, Hodije, did not have a 3 on the night.

DuPre was proud of his young team’s accomplishments this year. “We were picked fourth in our conference and these kids have played their hearts out all year,” said DuPre.

West Ashley has a strong future with only two seniors, Hodije included, in their top eight players.

DuPre had nothing but praise for his opponent. “Irmo is a solid team. But we helped them with a lot of unforced mistakes in the first half. Give them credit. Their defense was tough.”