PRIOR to Saturday, if you were to tell Jefferson head basketball coach Boling Dubose that Satchel Turpin and Tay Taylor would only combine for 15 points in the Region 8-AA championship game, he certainly wouldn’t expect to come away with a win.
“I would have expected us to lose by 20,” DuBose quipped.
But even with the Dragons two top scorers being held to pedestrian numbers, Jefferson found a way to get past Greene County last weekend as the Dragons were crowned Region 8-AA champions in Rabun County.
DuBose had expected to meet Greene County in the finals and knew full well that there would be no cakewalk victory for the Dragons. Jefferson had ousted the Tigers 63-52 earlier in the season, but Greene County came better prepared for round two.
“It was a battle,” said DuBose. “They are so athletic and physically strong. This time of year, the refs really let you play. Physical teams like Greene County try to take away what you do best.”
The Tigers came into the game doing just that. Taylor scored 24 points in the previous matchup of the two teams, while Turpin posted double digits. Greene County clearly schemed to limit Taylor and Turpin offensively by press defense, double-teams, limiting drives into the paint and limiting fast breaks.
Greene County’s defensive game plan disrupted the Jefferson offense in the first quarter and the Dragons fell behind 9-6. Fortunately for Jefferson, the Dragon defense was able to match Greene County’s level of play and went in to halftime down by only three points.
“We were out of sync in the first half,” said DuBose. “We played well on defense, but they were working harder than us before halftime.”
DuBose planned some adjustments during the break, which would move Turpin outside the perimeter and allow him to work towards the basket. The Dragons’ halftime adjustments proved fruitful as the Jefferson offense started rolling early in the third quarter.
“We really adjusted well,” said DuBose. “The turning point was the first four minutes of the third quarter. When Turpin penetrated, it opened up shots for Connor (McCullough). (McCullough) gave us a shot in the arm on offense.”
The Dragons scored 19 points in the third period to gain a four-point lead, which they would hold on to for the remainder of the game to win 43-39.
McCullough and Turpin led scoring for the Dragons with 10 points each.
With several players in early foul trouble, DuBose relied on relief from the bench to keep up a high level of defensive play in the low scoring affair.
“I’m really pleased with how we played defense,” added DuBose. “Every kid that we put in there played hard.”
The Dragons now have limited time to prepare before hosting Region 6-AA’s No. 4 seed, Lovett in the first round of the state tournament.
Lovett is 8-17 on the season, but DuBose isn’t being fooled by the Lion’s record.
“(Lovett head coach) Chuck Palito does a really good job,” said DuBose. “They will be well coached. They have been better in January and February than they were at the beginning of the seasons. They have some young guys growing up and play in a really tough region.”
DuBose compared Lovett’s team with Rabun County due to the fact that both “have strong guards that like to shoot the ball well from the outside.” Both Lovett and Rabun County also have a 6-foot-3 post player that can do some damage in the paint.
The 23-5 Dragons look superior on paper, but will have another x-factor to work in their favor. After winning the Region 8-AA championship, the Dragons secured a No. 1 seed and home field advantage through the first three rounds of the state tournament.
Jefferson has only lost two games at home all year and both losses were by three points or less.
“To have our fans there is huge,” said DuBose. “Our student section has been the best its been in 10 years. Our fans do a great job of helping the team get up for home games. Hopefully we can take advantage of that.”