It was certainly not a thing of beauty, but Goose Creek High School girls basketball coach Tim Baldwin will take any win he can get.
Goose Creek advanced to the AAAA state championship game with a 44-32 win over Irmo in the Class AAAA Lower State title matchup on Friday night in the Florence Civic Center.
Goose Creek will play next Friday in the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia against the winner of Monday night’s Dutch Fork/Spring Valley Upper State title game.
“It was a like a boxing match with two punchers throwing punches and every once in a while you might get one in,” said Baldwin, whose team improved to 22-6 with its 14th consecutive win. “It was two teams that play the same style and both teams had trouble scoring. We were able to open up a little bit of a lead and had some foul trouble, but I was encouraged to have a lead.”
Sophomore guard Mariah Linney continued her hot play during the playoffs, leading all scorers with 17 points. Linney is averaging 16.5 points in her four postseason games this season. Her five free throws in the final minute helped seal the victory.
Junior guard Zeleria Simpson added 12 points for Goose Creek. The Gators won despite a 14-of-33 performance from the free throw line.
Goose Creek opened up a 14-8 lead after one quarter and led, 19-11, with 4:17 to play in the second quarter before Irmo cut the lead to two at 19-17 with less than a minute to play. Goose Creek held on for a 20-17 halftime advantage.
A shutdown defensive effort in the third quarter allowed Goose Creek to hold a 26-19 lead after three quarters. Irmo finished the game making 10 of 62 shots from the field and only 10 of 30 free throws.
Both teams struggled offensively, especially from the line, in the fourth period. Linney missed her first six freebies of the quarter before making five straight at the end. Irmo did not make its first field goal of the second half until the 6:55 mark of the fourth quarter.
Irmo cut the lead to 32-28 with 2:20 to play but would make only one field goal down the stretch.
“They kept coming back. Irmo is a solid program and they played hard,” said Baldwin. “I told our girls we had to answer back and we were able to make some free throws at the end.
“I always say it’s not how you drive, it’s how you arrive. Right now we’re playing good basketball and hopefully we can do it for one more game.”
Goose Creek (44): Mariah Linney 17, Zeleria Simpson 12, Bishop 4, Broughton 4, Nelson 2, Davis 2, Wilson 3.
Irmo (32): Taiylar DeMoss 10, Jackson 5, Morgan 5, Jabber 5, Carter 4, Fant 3.