York guard Brittney Merriweather had a frustrating performance in Wednesday's 41-24 loss to Irmo. She scored 9 points, but was 3 for 10 from the field, and didn't net her first basket until 2:23 in the third period.
For coach Paula Blackwell, Merriweather's cold shooting highlighted her team's struggles over the past two days.
"We were just struggling to score out there," said Blackwell, whose Cougar squad finished fourth in the Exxon on the Run Holiday Tournament. "We played good defense, hustled, but over time it just wears on you when you can't score. We were definitely in a funk."
Though the matchup between York and Irmo spiraled into a lopsided contest in the second half, the opening periods were a physical, defensive struggle. York opted for a smaller, quicker lineup to match up against Irmo's size, which often forced the Yellow Jackets into several turnovers and clogged passing lanes. The first period ended with a 6-all tie, but the lack of scoring caused tempers to flare in the second period as the two teams tried to match each other's aggression.
There were four jump balls in the second period; each resulting in a tussle on the ground as opposing players yanked and pulled for possession. Every shot and pass was contested, and despite the game's increasing physicality, York was whistled for only three fouls in the first half. Irmo forward Jemekia Wilson led all scorers in the first half with 4 points -- but Wilson, along with her other teammates, would heat up in the second half, leaving a still stagnant York offense in the dust.
Irmo opened the third quarter with two lightning quick scores and never looked back. The Yellow Jackets size finally began to overwhelm York's defense, with Wilson and fellow forward Jessica Gathers using their near 6-foot frames to dominate the post and frequently hit put-back baskets. Wilson and Gathers finished with 10 and 12 points respectively. As the whistle signaling the end of the third period sounded, York had only put 19 points on the board, and finished the game with just 24 points.
Despite losing in frustrating fashion, Blackwell said after the game that she believes her team's poor shooting effort isn't a sign of things to come.
"The only way to fix our poor shooting is to keep shooting," Blackwell said. "We'll continue working hard over break, and I believe we will get our swagger back. We'll be fine."
Blackwell also chalked up the tournament as a positive learning experience for her team, crediting the diversity of their competition as something York can utilize going forward.
"There were several different types of teams on the floor these past couple days," Blackwell said. "We got to see a bunch of different looks, plus none of these teams are in our region or on our schedule, so it's only going to make us better."
The 5-1 Cougars resume their season Jan. 4, hosting Rock Hill.
Exxon on the Run Holiday Tournament results: Greenwood defeated Broome 49-37 to win the championship, with Broome finishing second overall in the tournament.
Irmo finished in third place after defeating York 41-24. The Australian Travelers finished 5th after a 97-44 victory over Seneca, and Indian Land finished 8th in the tournament after losing to the Travelers 68-21 on Tuesday.
IRMO 41, YORK 24
York: Brittney Merriweather 9, Lilasha Dervin 6, Ashanti Wilson 5, Hikeya' Davis 2, Aria Crawford 2
Irmo: Jessica Gathers 12, Jemekia Wilson 10, Olivia Jabber 6, Ke'Asia Jackson 4, Bria Harper 3, Maya Rice 2, Shamaza McNeal 2, Brittany Golden 2
3-pointers: York 1; (Merriweather). Total Fouls: York 10; Irmo 15. Ejections: Jemekia Wilson (Irmo)
Record: York 5-1, 0-0; Irmo 4-4, 0-2