She also dished out its highest number of assists (210) — a school record that is the third highest in the state — sank 61 3-pointers, another state record, and tallied 3.6 steals per outing.
They are just a few of the reasons The Daily Tribune News’ player of the year was a favorite of fans and players. Her teammates knew her presence increased their chance of winning by limiting their opponents’ chances of scoring or maximized the likelihood a Lady Purple Hurricane would score.
They are part of how Irby contributed to the Region 7B-AAA team’s 21-7 overall record, 9-3 in the region, as she directed a potent offense that put up 62 points per outing, tops in the region.
Cartersville placed second in the region and played one game in the state playoffs, losing to Oconee.
Irby was an offensive weapon herself, as she knocked down a ton of 3-pointers and tied another school record by hitting 8 3-pointers in a single game. Her season stats per game include 7.5 assists and 5.9 rebounds. Among her accomplishments were two triple doubles in addition to seven double doubles.
Donna Enis, Cartersville head coach, said her value goes beyond her considerable numbers.
“She is far beyond her years in how she plays,” Enis said of the sophomore. “She sees the floor better than any player I’ve ever had. She can do so many things well with the basketball. Because of that we could design more plays for her. She also saw the floor so well she could execute the plays better.”
Irby was not the only player torching the nets for the Lady Canes and her astuteness helped her put the ball in the right hands.
“She made our fast break work better because she can see things before they happen,” Enis said. “She’s a special player. She gives us a lot of options we don’t ordinarily have.”
The coach said holding the record for dishing out assists is a biggie for a team because it encourages players to get open. “I don’t think people realize just how valuable she is. When you lead in assists, it shows you are very unselfish.”
Not only is she unselfish, her coach said, but she uses pass distribution to put players in better positions to knock down their shots.
The coach said Irby, who is 5-feet, 6-inches tall, is a good leader, too.
“She’s not real vocal but she leads by the way she plays,” Enis said. “She makes everyone around her better. At the same time, she makes everyone depend on her because she does so many things well.”
Enis said her rebounding — 5.9 per outing — are a lot for a point guard. “She loves to rebound. She has a knack for finding the ball. She knows where it’s going to be and goes and gets it.”
Enis said while Irby is coachable, she has natural instincts about the game that have kicked in. “I like to tell some of my friends while she has so much natural ability, don’t be knocking my coaching because I’ve taught her everything I know. We have a laugh about that.”
After chuckling herself, Enis broaches the subject of natural ability more seriously.
“I’ve had players who are very hard workers,” Enis said. “But they can work all the time and still not have that instinct. That’s just a blessing.”
One thing that stands out about an Irby-directed team is how fast it moves down court and especially to the goal.
“She is one of those kids that it just kind of clicks for her,” Enis said. “She does work at it also. I don’t want to take any thing away from that hard work, but a lot of what she does is instinctive.”
Enis said Irby’s quickness, speed and leaping ability all serve the team’s needs, but her ball distribution is a real push toward a victory.
“I think everyone enjoys playing with her. She shares the ball. She makes her teammates better,” Enis said. “She doesn’t go out with the idea to take all the shots. She gives the balls up as well. She is the type of player if you get open you know you’ll get a shot and have a chance to make it.”