The West Ashley boys basketball team is youthful, with a roster that features eight juniors. So, the future is bright for Ronnie DuPre's team.
The present isn't too bad, either. The Wildcats pushed their record to 20-4 with a 69-52 victory over Irmo on Wednesday night in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs. The Wildcats advance to play at Sumter on Saturday night. The Gamecocks advanced with a 64-51 win over Dutch Fork.
Junior D'Montre Edwards led the way with 26 points and 10 rebounds. The junior was 11 of 17 from the field, including 2 of 6 from 3-point land.
"He is, at times, a phenomenal player," DuPre said. "Our goal is to have him play consistently. He can rebound and he can score. But he's only a junior, so he has his ups and downs."
That was the Wildcats' rhythm against Irmo, which checked out with an 18-7 record. The Wildcats jumped to a 17-9 lead after one stop and led 30-23 at halftime. But the rhythm changed and the Yellow Jackets cut the lead to one point. West Ashley responded with a 10-0 run and the Yellow Jackets couldn't get close the rest of the way.
"They were really shutting us down at the beginning of the third quarter, DuPre said. "They really stepped up defensively and we had three of four trips where we couldn't hit a shot. Then we had three or four trips where we made baskets. High school basketball had become a game that is determined by which team can hit the jump shots."
Matt Kennedy added 11 points for the Wildcats while Earl Lawrence collected seven points and seven assists. The Wildcats had reason to be concerned when guard C.J. Seay sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter and did not return to action.
Jordan Roper led the Yellow Jackets with 16 points, while Josh Clinkscales tallied eight.
Last year, West Ashley opened the playoffs with a 70-66 victory over Ridge View. The Wildcats went on the road for the second round. The Wildcats hung tough, but dropped a 64-58 decision to Sumter.
"We were young, fell behind, made some big plays," DuPre said of last year's playoff game against Sumter. "But we couldn't keep up. This year, we have a nucleus of juniors, so we want to go deep as possible in the playoffs."
Irmo (52): Carson 4, Je. Clinkscales 3, Huguenin 6, Roper 16, Ranly 3, Jo. Clinkscales 8, Brunson 6, Frazier 2, McKonkle 4.
West Ashley (69): Seay 7, Kennedy 11, Lawrence 7, Hilton 2, Burns 2, Richardson 5, Edwards 26, Shell 9.