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Improbable victory sends Irmo basketball to another state championship appearance

IRMO – Sitting at 2-5 in region play, Tim Whipple knew the ship needed to be righted fast. Little did he know the fashion it would happen in.

“I wish I had an answer,” Whipple laughed. “I honestly don’t know.”

The Irmo Yellow Jackets (21-7, 7-5) are headed back to the Class AAAAA state championship for a 10th time under Whipple after defeating top-seeded Blythewood on an incredible buzzer-beating layup 48-47 Saturday in Florence.

“This is absolutely incredible,” Whipple said. “The youth of today are extremely resilient. Our guys never allowed yesterday to bother today.”

Those words ring so true when looking back to January 19 after the Yellow Jackets had just lost for the fifth time in six games. Ever since that moment, something clicked as Irmo reeled off 10 straight victories en route to another title appearance.

“No matter what happened in the past, our guys always kept their sights on the future,” Whipple said. “They continued to work hard, look forward and make things better. At some point, we stopped finding ways to lose and found ways to win.”

Part of that reason is due to senior leadership. Big man and captain Winston Hill tasted defeat in this moment just two years ago. Now that he’s made it back, he and his teammates want to go out the right way.

“I’ve dreamed of this since my sophomore year (losing to Byrnes in the state championship),” Hill said. “We are ready for this moment. Guys have had a chance to celebrate that big win over Blythewood, but we’re moving past it and focusing on the real test.”

Irmo will face defending state champions Dorman on Friday, March 2 at 8:30 p.m. at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.

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