It would be a scary thought to feel what the Irmo Yellow Jackets would be like if the team played up to the offensive expectations of long-time coach Tim Whipple.
"It is a good thing that we played well defensively tonight," Whipple said after watching the top-ranked Yellow Jackets dismantle Northwestern, 66-33, in the opening round of the Class AAAA state playoffs Wednesday. "We did not shoot the ball well and we really needed this type of defensive effort."
The Yellow Jackets defense, featuring an active half-court zone and full-court zone trap, caused constant frustrations to the Trojans, who were limited to only 12 first-half points.
Irmo forced Northwestern guards into a series of turnovers, including three in the first six possessions. The Yellow Jackets closed the opening quarter on a 6-0 run, capped by Jordan Roper's jumper at the buzzer for a 16-5 lead.
Roper ignited the Irmo attack by catching a pass for a highlight alley-oop dunk on the first possession of the second quarter. Reserve guard Sam Amedee drove the lane for a layup to put the Yellow Jackets in control, 26-5. Three possessions later, Roper swished a jumper.
Trojans center Rontavious McClure broke the drought with a jumper, but Jeremy Clinkscale grabbed an offensive rebound for a put-back hoop. Josh Clinksdale scored on the inside while and Jeremy Clinkscale nailed a jumper to beat the halftime buzzer for a 34-12 Yellow Jackets advantage.
"They are a heck of a team," Trojan coach Mike Gossett said. "We were too slow to the basketball and their defense had our guards very timid.
"They are pretty good. It is one thing to watch them on film, but they are even quicker in person. They are also a very deep team. Their goal is to get to the state this year and they have good enough to get there."
Whipple, whose team improves to 23-3, said defense always sets the tone for his team's success.
That is a thought that is shared by Roper, an all-state candidate who led a balanced Irmo attack with 16 points.
"Defense is always the key for us to dictate the pace, create steals, and get stops," Roper said.
"We want to play with the same defensive intensity that we did tonight, but I am confident that we will pick it up offensively."
Gossett said that his team did play better in the second half and that was reflected in the Trojans beginning the third quarter on a 10-7 run. Irmo, however, answered that challenge to score 13 of the final 15 points of the period to seize a comfortable 54-24 advantage.
Northwestern ends the season at 12-13. Irmo will host the Hillcrest-Wren survivor on Saturday in second-round action.
Northwestern -- Jontae McMillan 3, Jalen Orr 4, Alvin McClure 2, Julius Durham 7, Rontavious McClure 10, Kendrick Cauthen 1, Stewart Hunt 3, Mustafa Love 2, Shackle Worthy 1.
Irmo -- Jordan Roper 15, Jeremy Clinksale 10, Kain Robinson 1, Josh Clinksdale 9, Sam Adedee 2, David Frazier 5, Alex Inabinet 3, Detrek Browning 6, Justin McKie 7, Dominic Shuler 4, Rakish Taylor 4.
3-pointers -- Northwestern 1 (McMillan), Irmo 4 (Clinksales, Frazier, Inabinet, McKie). Team fouls -- Northwestern 16, Irmo 15. Fouled out -- R. McClure (N).
Records: Northwestern 12-13; Irmo 23-3.