IRWINTON -- Defending GHSA Class A public school champion Wilkinson County was expected to get a stern test from Dooly County on Thursday night, a team that had only lost three times this season.
Someone forgot to tell the Warriors, however, as they dismantled Dooly County 73-51 in the Class A public school tournament. Torrico Simmons scored 16 points, while Derek Traywick had 15, and Antonio Whipple added 14 as Wilkinson County advanced to a Final Four game Saturday in Savannah.
We firmly believe that whoever is going to win the Class A state championship gas to come down Highway 57 and knock us out, Wilkinson head coach Aaron Geter said. We could tell they came out a little flat on the offensive side of the ball, and we were able to take advantage of that. I wont go as far to say that we expected to get this far this year, but every team we have here has a goal of winning the state championship. We did a lot of good things in this game, and we will just try to build on it and keep playing solid basketball.
Wilkinson County took a 27-17 lead into the half behind strong free-throw shooting. The Warriors converted 11-of-15 free throws, while Dooly County only made 4-of-10. The Bobcats also struggled from the 3-point line in the first half, making only 1-of-9.
Wilkinson County continued to stretch its lead in the second half despite Dooly County playing much better. The Warriors took their biggest lead of the third quarter at 38-22, scoring five straight points, the first two on a thunderous dunk by Whipple off of a missed shot, and then a 3-pointer by Quantavious Jones.
But the Bobcats rallied, cutting the Warriors lead to 44-34 by the end of the quarter, keyed by six straight points by Keron Merrell, who ended the night with 14 points.
Wilkinson County ended any comeback hopes, outscoring Dooly County 22-11 during the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. Whipple key the spurt by scoring 10 of those points, including two more dunks, and Simmons closed it out by making six straight free throws when the Bobcats were forced to foul.
It was just a great team effort, Whipple said. I just try to go hard to the boards to rebound, and (Thursday) a few of them were sitting there for me to dunk. It is really amazing that we were able to win by so much because Dooly is a very tough team. But we love playing at our home gym, and I know that helped us again.