For the second time in two meetings, the James Island Trojans got off to a great start against Region 7-AAAA rival West Ashley on Friday night.
The Trojans led from start to finish and captured the region boys championship with a 67-58 win, finishing with a 10-0 record in league play.
The Trojans improved to 18-3 overall this season and will host at least two rounds of the Lower State AAAA playoffs, which begin next Wednesday. James Island advanced to the AAAA Lower State final last season.
Junior center Maurice Hardimon led James Island with 25 points and junior guard Jordan McDaniel added 7 points.
“I don’t think anyone really gave us a shot when the year started,” James Island coach Stan Wilkins said. “We managed to get through the first half of the region schedule not really playing great but able to win. These last few weeks, we have really started to play pretty well. Guys have a better understanding of their roles and we seem to be playing better together.”
In the first meeting this season — a 62-60 win — the Trojans scored the first 12 points of the game. On Friday, James Island ran out to an 11-1 lead in the first three minutes of the game. James Island led 17-8 after one quarter and held a 38-29 lead at halftime.
West Ashley never got any closer than four points in the game.
“They got off to a good start in both games and that’s a credit to them,” Wildcats coach Ronnie DuPre said. “We have some serious mismatches against them at a lot of positions. Hardimon dominated us inside. He was a concern of ours going in and he did a good job.”
The game appeared headed for a blowout when James Island opened up a 50-32 lead with just under four minutes left in the third quarter. However, the Trojans would fail to score in the rest of the period and West Ashley closed with an 11-0 run to trail, 50-43, heading into the final quarter.
“I knew in the back of my head, with a 3-point shooting team like West Ashley, I just knew the game was far from over,” Wilkins said.
“We took some rushed shots and got out of what we were doing well and West Ashley started making shots. I knew this game would end up being down to the wire.”
Shelton Brown’s free throw with 3:26 left in the game closed the gap to 57-53, but James Island was able to maintain distance by hitting 10 of 12 free throw attempts in the final quarter.
“I am really proud of our guys,” Wilkins said. “It’s a good bunch of guys and to go through this region undefeated, that’s really quite an accomplishment.”
Senior guard David Hodije led West Ashley with 19 points. Brown and Skylar Williams each added 12 for the Wildcats, who also will open the playoffs at home next Wednesday.