Playing with intensity over 32 minutes remains a key obstacle for the Jefferson High School boys’ team.
The Dragons entered Monday’s holiday with seesaw-like results over the weekend, including a sound victory over Washington-Wilkes, 67-49, on Friday and a loss to Winder-Barrow High School, 53-50, on Saturday.
The good news is Jefferson picked the more important game to win. The Dragons (9-8, 3-1 in 8-AA entering Tuesday night) are sitting in the No. 2 spot after dominating the Tigers. Plus, there is an outside shot Jefferson could host the region tournament, which begins Feb. 12.
This Friday’s Greene County/Rabun County contest in Greensboro could determine the tournament location. If Greene wins, the Tigers will host the tournament, DuBose said. If Rabun wins, there is a scenario in which the Dragons will host.
At this point though, the coach is more focused on correcting Saturday’s result against the Bulldoggs, which did not impact the region record. He viewed the game as a setback. His talk with the team after the loss revolved around effort and execution.
With just seven games to go, DuBose said he might narrow Jefferson’s list of go-to players to those who commit to the fast-break, full-court plan — day in and day out.
“We really played well Friday, extremely well,” he said of the team’s Washington-Wilkes win. “I was hopeful we’d play well again and continue that physical and mental effort on Saturday. But we don’t know how to do that yet, play hard for two nights in a row. We just didn’t play hard.”
Whereas Jefferson controlled the Tigers (8-9, 1-3 in 8-AA) and picked up the region win, the Dragons let the Bulldoggs (11-8) control the tempo and rule the boards. The outcome was predictable, the coach said. Winder out-rebounded Jefferson by 15.
“I knew if it got to be a half court game we were going to be in trouble. We are not a good half-court team,” DuBose said. “Friday we were pushing the ball down the court and here we are Saturday walking.”
The Dragons were outscored 34-22 over the second and third periods, with the Bulldoggs taking advantage of a slew of foul opportunities. WBHS converted 18 of 30 shots from the line, with Zay Hester nailing nine of his 12 attempts. He led the team with 17 points.
Conversely, Jefferson scored just four of its 12 foul shot attempts, with just one player scoring in double-digits. Senior Jeshua Kidd led the team with 10. Junior Satchel Turpin added eight points.
On Friday, the story was quite different. Eleven players scored, with Kidd and Turpin each leading the way with 12. (Both lead the team in scoring and are averaging 10.1 and 10.3 points a game, respectively.) At the foul line, the Dragons handled the pressure, as well, converting 11 of 15.
Playing behind is another habit DuBose wants the team to break. The pattern unfurled again Saturday, with the Bulldoggs pushing to a 14-point lead after three periods.
While Jefferson clawed its way back into the game, they could not finish. It marked the fifth time this season the Dragons had dropped behind by 10 or more points and managed to make a comeback. DuBose views the games as missed wins.
“Against Rabun, it worked,” he said. “I told them, ‘We have a 9-8 record. If we played hard every game, we’d be 13-4 right now.”
Jefferson’s focus is winning its remaining region games.
The schedule is favorable with the Dragons hosting Social Circle (Friday), Riverside (Saturday) and Union Circle (Tuesday).
“The next few games are real important to us,” he said. “No. 1, we have to learn to play with great effort for 32 minutes. No. 2, we have to learn how to play back-to-back nights, Friday and Saturday … We’ll get it straightened out.”
The Dragons’ also will host Commerce at 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 1, and North Hall on Feb. 2.