You only get better by playing the best.
In that case, the Northwestern Trojans can use Saturday’s 65-38 loss to Irmo as a positive stepping stone towards the rest of the season.
Irmo, a perennial Class-AAAA state title contender who is the state’s top-ranked team, proved to be as good as advertised while claiming the championship trophy in the 12th annual Moody Holiday Tournament at the Northwestern High School gym on Saturday night.
The Yellow Jackets were methodical on both ends of the court while building an 18-point second quarter lead.
Led by University of South Carolina commitment Justin McKie, Irmo played a dominating third quarter, which resulted in a 25-12 spurt to put the contest out of reach with a 30-point lead.
Yellow Jacket guard DeTrek Browning, who nailed two 3-pointers during that span, drained 13 points in the third when the contest developed into a blowout.
Trojan coach Mike Gossett called the contest a measuring stick which the Trojans can use to grow and develop.
“This was a good thing for us in that we use this type of competition against teams like Irmo and Dorman to see where we are,” Gossett said. “Our guys did not win the game, but we competed and continued to get after it.
“Irmo is very good. They shot the ball well and did a good job looking for each other in getting open shots. But for us, we have to be able to put the ball in the basket, make free throws, and prevent turnovers.”
Tim Whipple, the legendary Irmo coach who has multiple state championships, pointed to an outstanding defense which set the tone early.
“Our defense enabled us to get the lead. Offensively, we sputtered and did not execute well at times in the first half, but our defense ended up being our best offense.”
Then, Whipple said that McKie, who was chosen as the tournament MVP, got the Yellow Jacket offense going in the halftime locker room.
“What we also do at the half is to ask the players what we should be doing. Then, Justin McKie said that, ‘Coach, we should run this play’ that we had not yet run. We ran that play and scored on six or seven possessions,” in the third quarter.
“So I credit Justin for getting us going,” with the halftime strategy suggestion.
Irmo (13-0) led 28-13 at the half after McKie drained a buzzer-beating jumper. However, the third quarter turned into the DeTrek Browning show as the guard dominated by driving to the hoop and also, pulling up and draining three 3-point jumpers from beyond the arc.
His final long-distance jumper gave the Yellow Jackets a 29-point lead, 48-19, with 3:18 remaining in the third quarter.
Browning led all scorers with 20 points, followed by McKie and Alex Quillen with 16 and 11.
Rontavious McClure, who was also named to the all tournament team with Trojans forward Mason Rudolph, had 12 points to pace Northwestern.
IRMO 65, NORTHWESTERN 38
Irmo — Jevante Gross 6, Javis Howard 2, Khalil Small 2, Justin McKie 16, Alex Quillen 11, DeTrek Browning 20, Ryan Favor 3, Heyward Goodson 3.
Northwestern — Rontavius McClure 12, Malik Sims 1, Mason Rudolph 7, LaThomas Long 5, Mustafa Love 10, Clenzo Ross 1, Reggie Brooks 2.
3-pointers — Irmo 8 (Quillen 3, Browning 3, McKie 2). Team fouls — Northwestern 12, Irmo 18. Fouled out — none.
Records: Northwestern 6-9 , Irmo 13-0.