Gators fall in title game
Quite simply, it was a nightmarish end to the basketball season.
Goose Creek shot just 28 percent from the field and was dominated on the boards on Friday night, falling to Irmo 65-46 in the Class AAAA championship game at Colonial Life Arena.
The Yellow Jackets captured their second title in three years and finished the season a perfect 29-0.
The Gators ended up 22-5 after making just 14 of 50 shots from the floor and getting outrebounded 38-18. Irmo won the battle in the paint, outscoring the Gators 36-8.
“You've got to give Irmo a lot of credit,” GCHS coach Blake Hall said. “They're obviously a great team but we didn’t help. We got out of rhythm early on. I think the kids were a little tight.”
Shaquille Patrick had 18 points, all on 3-pointers, to lead Goose Creek, while Dantez Bennamon added 11. Bennamon, who had been averaging well over 20 points a game in the postseason, was just 3 of 17 from the floor and 1 from 10 beyond the arc.
Irmo was led by South Carolina signee Justin McKie with 20 points and 10 rebounds while Detrek Browning poured in 16 points. The Yellow Jackets hit 54.3 percent from the field (25 of 46).
Irmo started three seniors and four of the top seven players in terms of minute played will graduate.
“They really showed why they were able to go undefeated this year,” Hall said.
The Gators led 6-4 in the first quarter before Irmo ended the period on a 12-3 run. The Yellow Jackets then outscored Goose Creek 12-5 in the second quarter to build a 28-14 halftime lead. The Gators never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
“This team came very close to their potential but we just ran into a very good Irmo team tonight,” Hall said.
“Our defensive pressure just wasn’t like it was the rest of the year,” Bennamon said. “We had some lapses on that, and we couldn’t hit anything in the first half… We just couldn’t make a comeback.”
The Gators bring back three starters and four of their top seven players, including Bennamon.
“We’re not done yet,” he said. “… We’ll be back next year.”
Sophomore forward Jordan McElveen, junior guard Chris Singleton and sophomore guard Kameron Robinson are the other key contributors set to return next winter.
“That’s the great thing about coaching,” Hall said. “You always get a fresh start every season. Hopefully we can build on this year’s success.”
The title contest was the final game in a Gators uniform for Patrick, post player DeShawn Evans, forward Rashard Alston, guard Jaymeke Smith, forward Rashad Abdallah and forward Walter McNeil.