ROCK HILL — After knocking off No. 6 Aiken on Thursday night, the Fort Mill boys had visions of an even bigger basketball upset Friday night in the Lindberg Moody Holiday Tournament semifinals against No. 1-ranked Irmo. But the visitors from Columbia, ensured the visions were only that in a 69-35 throttling of the Yellow Jackets.
Future South Carolina Gameock Justin McKie led all scorers and Irmo with 21 points while Javis Howard added 16. Undefeated Irmo (12-0) came into the game only allowing 49 points per game despite giving up a season-high 68 to Boiling Springs the night before. Tim Whipples team showed why its No. 1 and its not necessarily an insatiable ability to score the ball.
We knew what they were going to do, we just didnt do what we needed to do, we didnt execute, said Fort Mill coach Dwayne Hartsoe. Theyre a very good team, they had a lot to do with that. But we were very passive.
Fort Mills Harrison Lancaster scored 30 in Thursdays win over Aiken, but he and the rest of his teammates were flummoxed by Irmos combination of a matchup zone and three-quarters court press. Lancaster was shutout, while Fort Mill (6-6) only scored three two-point baskets the entire game, instead relying on long-distance shots. When the Fort Mill players did penetrate the lane, 6-foot-8 center Howard, one of seven Irmo players 6-foot-3 or taller, was there to mop up and either foul, bother or block the shot.
You watch somebody score 30 points, you understand that you need to pay attention to them, Whipple said, referring to Lancaster. We tried not to give him any open looks and I dont think he even took too many shots.
At the other end, McKie demonstrated his offensive variety scoring on the baseline with a long-armed floater before knocking down a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to put Irmo up 9-2 early. Alex Quillens uncontested offensive put-back and DeTrek Brownings bucket following an Irmo steal made it 13-2 and prompted a timeout from Fort Mills bench with about three minutes left in the first quarter.
I assure you, this first half of the season our best offense has been our defense, said Irmo coach Tim Whipple. Weve struggled offensively at times but our defense has kept us in games and given us leads.
John Paris scored Fort Mills second field goal of the first quarter with a baby hook in the lane, but within four or five seconds Howard had the ball in the bucket after a sprint down the court for a 17-4 lead. Howard made it 19-4 heading into the second quarter when he followed his own miss with a teardrop that just beat the buzzer.
Fort Mill nearly tripled its output in the second quarter but still trailed by 24 at the break. Irmo scored eight points in the first two minutes of the second period to build a 27-4 lead over the shell-shocked Yellow Jackets. Hartsoes team couldnt solve the zone riddle Irmo provided and a steal by the visitors in black jerseys led to a McKie flush that raised the pulses of a languid crowd slightly, while simultaneously slamming the door shut on a Fort Mill upset.
Irmo 69, Fort Mill 35
Fort Mill: Mike Scurlock 5, Rylan Wells 11, Matt Ferguson 5, John Paris 2, Mitchell Johnson 10, Devan Thacker 2; Irmo: Jevante Gross 3, Javis Howard 16, Xavier Hill 2, Justin McKie 21, Kyle Ferguson 2, Alex Quillen 8, DeTrek Browning 4, Ryan Favor 2, Heyward Goodson 7, Will Jamison 2, Will Elm 2.
3-point goals: Fort Mill 7 (Wells 3, Johnson 2, Ferguson 1, Scurlock 1); Irmo 3 (McKie 2, Goodson).
Team fouls: Fort Mill 7; Irmo 16.
Foul shots: Fort Mill 8-12; Irmo 4-5.
Bret McCormick 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T