Gray Collegiate, Irmo boys post wins at MLK Bash

Posted 1/16/23

The finale of the two-day MLK Bash at Eau Claire High School on Jan. 16 featured two defending state champions still ranked in the new year atop their respective classifications.

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Gray Collegiate, Irmo boys post wins at MLK Bash


The finale of the two-day MLK Bash at Eau Claire High School on Jan. 16 featured two defending state champions still ranked in the new year atop their respective classifications.

Class 4A Wilson brought its fans from Florence to George Glymph Arena to face Class 2A Gray Collegiate Academy.

For the War Eagles, it was the first of three high-profile games in five days. Looming on the horizon was a home-at-home showdown with second-ranked W.J. Keenan starting Jan. 17 at their new home and Jan. 20 in Columbia.

Instead of a “1 versus 1” battle, Gray Collegiate treated the audience to a one-sided 73-46 victory over Wilson.

The War Eagles (14-5) took control from the opening tip, jumping out to a 19-3 advantage. The lead grew to 25 points before halftime and as high as 32 points early in the second half with Wilson (14-5) only getting within 26 points the rest of the way.

“You know, we took a break where we sat there and didn't play well when the guys got sick,” he said. “But now, we’re getting our rhythm back and we’re really starting to play together. I like the energy. I want to definitely see it tomorrow like I told them on the bench. You know, that's the most important thing. But we played very well tonight. I was really proud of them.”

Gray Collegiate’s scoring came from the post with Hoopaville Player of the Game Avantae Parker, who finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. There were fastbreak points created by guards Montraivis White, who along with Treyvon Maddox had 11 points and led the team in assists, and outside scoring from Ellis Graham and Mychael Mitchell, who each had 12 points.

What pleased head coach Dion Bethea even more was his team’s defensive play in holding the Tigers to a season-low in points. The 27-point margin of defeat was also the largest suffered by Wilson since a 57-25 defeat to Marlboro County on Feb. 7, 2019.  

“I've been saying this since I’ve been at Gray,” Bethea said. “Nobody gives us, you know, the recognition of being great defenders. Since we had Khalil Robinson and those guys, we always sat down and guard people. So, I really feel like we’re one of the best defensive teams in the state.”

The War Eagles now look to carry over their performance and current seven-game winning streak to the next night against the Raiders. They will not only look to remain undefeated at home in region play, but extend a 22-game region win streak dating back to Jan. 10, 2019.

“I talked to (Keenan head coach) Zach (Norris) last week and he’s excited to come over to our facility,” he said. “We haven’t lost (at home) going into nine years at Gray from Allen (University) to the old gym and even the new one. So, we want to keep that going as well.”

Irmo  59, 

Looking down the road, Sumter boys’ basketball coach Bryan Brown believes Monday’s MLK Bash matchup with Irmo will benefit his team.

For now, the players will only experience the sting of having a two-game winning streak end in the 59-47 loss to the fourth-ranked Yellow Jackets.

The Gamecocks (12-8) had two shot clock violations in the first half as the Bash utilized a 35-second clock.  Brown was also frustrated by turnovers which allowed the “more disciplined” Irmo team to capitalize off fastbreak opportunities.

“I thought on defense, we played pretty well,” Brown said. “On the wide-open shots, we’re not talking on defense. On the screens and stuff, they just did a good job of executing their offense and we just got to do a better job of staying locked in the whole time. I thought there were spurts where we are really good on defense, but those times that we didn't really killed us. When you’re playing against a really good, disciplined team like Irmo, you can’t take mental lapses on defense.”

Sumter did thrive early from behind the three-point line. Khalil Bledsoe scored all 12 of his points on four of the six three-pointers made in the first half for the Gamecocks as it jumped out to an early 17-12 lead.

A 9-0 run enabled Irmo to gain the lead the rest of the game. The Yellow Jackets had a 39-29 halftime lead and stretched their lead as many as 15 points late in the second half.

It came on a high-arching three-pointer by A.J. Brand to beat the 35-second shot clock. Ironically, Irmo head coach Tim Whipple is not a fan of the shot clock in high school games.

He acknowledged aside with exception to a few plays; it did not have a major impact on the game.

“I think tonight we kind of struggled,” said Whipple, who won his 833rd career game which is second in S.C. High School League history. “We didn’t have a lot of intensity, but enough to able to get by. I think we’ve got a long way to go and today’s an indication of that.”

Madden Collin had 18 points to lead the Yellow Jackets (17-2), who won their seventh straight game. He was also named Player of the Game and event co-sponsor Hoopaville.

Te’Andre Summons had 11 points and Brand and Jonathan White each added 10 for Irmo, which was still without the services of forward/center Brandon Crawford (mononucleosis).

B.J. Brown had 14 points to lead Sumter, which resumes Region 5-5A play Friday at St. James.

I definitely think this game is going to make us better,” Brown said. “It's going to have us focus on the little things. That's one of the biggest pet peeves I have right now. That’s bothering my schemes, that obviously this is the first time we’ve played against a team as disciplined as this one. It kind of identifies our weakness. So we'll definitely look at some film and I think it's going to help us grow.”

Thomas Grant Jr. | Chronicle
Gray Collegiate Academy head coach Dion Bethea following the 73-46 win over Class 4A defending champion Wildon
Thomas Grant Jr. | Chronicle
Irmo boys basketball coach Tim Whipple following the 59-47 win over Sumter. It was career win 833.

Gray Collegiate, Dion Bethea, MLK Bash, Irmo, Tim Whipple, basketball


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