James Island rolls in playoff opener

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“Dream Team” read a sign in the crowd at James Island Charter High School’s gym on Wednesday night, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to argue the point.

The Trojans’ dream season rolled on as James Island won its Class AAAA boys’ basketball playoff opener with a 58-44 win over visiting Westwood. Senior guard Brady Schuck scored 18 points as the Region 7-AAAA champions improved to 20-5 on the season.

James Island will play host Saturday to West Florence, a 56-52 winner over White Knoll.

Veteran coach Stan Wilkins has said often that this team, led by nine seniors, is the best he’s had at James Island. But the Trojans also moved up to Class AAAA from AAA this season, joining the same region as defending state champion Wando.

“I’m thinking, what a year for us to come up to AAAA,” Wilkins said.

Wando blitzed the Trojans, 59-38, in the Red Cross Rotary Roundball Classic in December. But James Island bounced back to beat the Warriors twice during region play, each victory building Trojan confidence.

“We really gained some confidence in region play and realized how good we could be,” said Schuck, a 6-2 guard. “And a lot of us are seniors, so we have really good chemistry.”

Indeed, the Trojans got contributions from up and down the roster in knocking off Westwood (11-14), a new school in the Columbia area coached by former South Carolina standout Terry Dozier.

Maurice Hardimon, a 6-5 sophomore, teamed with 6-4 sophomore Vince Cole to do solid work inside, each player scoring nine points. Sharp-shooting senior Lyles Davis hit a couple of big 3-pointers and scored eight points, and sophomore Jordan McDaniel added eight more.

A 3-pointer from Schuck and two mid-range jumpers from McDaniel capped a 17-4 run and gave James Island a 46-32 lead late in the third quarter. Westwood tried to rally, but made only 3 of 11 free throws in the fourth quarter, finishing at 9 of 21 for the game.

Westwood jumped out to early leads of 6-0 and 15-9, but two baskets and an assist from Schuck tied the score at 15-15 after one period. James Island led by 29-26 at the half on a buzzer-beating trey by Cole.

Jordan Watson, a 6-1 junior, led Westwood with 16 points.

James Island 58, Westwood 44

Westwood 15 11 13 5--44

James Island 15 14 19 10--58

Westwood: Jacobs 7, Davis 6, Tolliver 3, Jordan Watson 16, Atkins 2, Finch 5.

James Island: Davis 8, Chadwick 1, Brady Schuck 18, McDaniel 8, Hardimon 9, Nunn 3, Cole 9.

Records; JI 20-5, Westwood 11-14.