STOCK PHOTO BASKETBALL

Here is a round-up of local basketball results from the weekend:

SATURDAY

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL: Buford runs away from Dragons in second half of marquee matchup

BUFORD — After playing Buford close for a half, Jefferson was unable to keep pace with the Class AAAAAA powerhouse in the final two quarters in a pairing of top-10 girls’ teams.

The Dragons (11-3) managed just 15 points in the second half in a 68-45 loss Saturday (Jan. 16) to the Wolves (13-0) at Buford City Arena. Jefferson, ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA, trailed by just six points midway through the third quarter, but Buford — ranked No. 4 in Class AAAAAA — dominated the final 12 minutes of the contest.

“I just think we were a little bit dead-legged at that point,” said Jefferson coach Greg Brown, whose team had played the night before. “We had to fight so hard to get back into the game in that second quarter … And give them credit. They’re rotating about 10 kids in consistently throughout the game. We’re playing somewhere between seven and eight.”

The Dragons’ three losses this year have all come to ranked teams in higher classifications — two to Buford and the other to Class AAAAA No. 6-ranked St. Pius X.

Livi Blackstock led Jefferson with 18 points against the Wolves, who have won four consecutive state championships and five in the last six years.

The Dragons turned the ball over 23 times and shot 30.6 percent for the floor in the loss.

Contending with Buford’s full-court pressure, Jefferson faced deficits of 20-5 and 26-13 in the first half but steadied itself by rallying to within six points (36-30) at halftime. Jefferson shot 54.5 percent from the floor in the second quarter. A layup from Allianne Clark to open the second half pulled the Dragons to within four points of Buford.

Jefferson later trailed 40-34 with four minutes remaining in the third quarter, but Blair Willis knocked down a 3-pointer at the top of the key to spark a 16-2 run. The Dragons, who scored just six points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, were unable to muster another rally.

Jefferson shot 1-of-17 in the third quarter and were limited to just one 3-pointer in the second half.

“I felt like we had played really, really well, and we allowed them to go on a run there in that third quarter to kind of spread it back out,” Brown said. “I just didn’t think we had any gas left in the tank at that point.”

But Brown said, “I loved how hard we fought; I loved how hard we competed. We didn’t back down.”

The coach noted that rebounding has been an issue for his team, but it held Buford to just six offensive boards on Saturday.

“Which is really, really good,” Brown said. “And that’s the positive I’m taking from it.”

The loss capped a busy week for Jefferson. The Dragons played three games, two of which were games against teams ranked in the top four of their respective classifications (Rabun County and Buford). It also played a region game on Friday (Jan. 15) against North Oconee.

“The most important game in that week was the one on Friday,” Brown said. “Because it’s a region game and the one that matters. Probably, we gave it more attention than we did the other two.”

Jefferson returns to play Tuesday (Jan. 19, 6 p.m.) against region opponent Madison County.

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL: East Jackson’s five-game winning streak snapped with non-region loss

The East Jackson girls’ basketball team saw a five-game winning streak end with a 68-45 non-region loss at Banks County Saturday (Jan. 16).

Kenzie Whitehead paced the Eagles with 14 points, followed by Haven Rollins with 13 points. Destiny Rakestraw added 10 points.

East Jackson (5-2) will resume its region schedule Tuesday (Jan. 19, 6 p.m.) at home against Monroe Area.

BOYS’ BASKETBALL: Eagles drop non-region contest against Banks Co.

East Jackson’s Makayl Rakestraw had a 21-point night with five rebounds and four assists, but the Eagles (3-5) came up short Saturday (Jan. 16) in a 54-45 non-region loss at Banks County.

R.J. White added 13 points and four rebounds, and Jarvis Smith II had nine points four rebounds and two steals.

East Jackson hosts Monroe Area Tuesday (Jan. 19, 7:30 p.m.) as Region 8-AAA play resumes.

FRIDAY

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL: Tigers dominate Greene Co. for third-straight win

The Commerce girls’ basketball team has reeled off three straight wins, thanks in no small part to its defense.

The Tigers (5-8) beat region opponent Greene County 69-27 Friday (Jan. 15) in their most decisive win of the year. The win marked the second time this season Commerce has held an opponent below 30 points.

“We constantly tell them that defense creates offense for us,” coach Brad Puckett said. “We have won three and a row with that as our focus.”

Raven Parks paced Commerce with 16 points, while Bryanna Sanders added 13 points, Maggie Mullis chipped in 12 points and Carson Hobbs finished with 10 points.

Commerce installed a full-court press two days prior to the game. Puckett said he believed his team “could put a lot of full-court pressure on them by denying the inbound which is something we often don’t do.”

Offensively, Puckett explained that coaches saw gaps in Greene County’s defense his team could exploit, “getting lots of baskets on the opposite block from the ball which they did a poor job of dropping and covering.”

Commerce improved to 2-1 in region play with the win, with Puckett saying the team is “moving in a positive direction.”

The Tigers have added a Tuesday (Jan. 19, 6 p.m.) non-region game with Cherokee Bluff to the schedule.

“It should be a good competitive non region game for us before resuming region play next Saturday (Jan. 23) at Social Circle,” Puckett said.

BOYS’ BASKETBALL: Lord leads Tigers past Greene Co. with 32-point night

Commerce’s Cayden Lord picked a good time to play the best game of his career.

With the Tigers on a five-game slide, the sophomore produced a career-high 32 points as Commerce beat Greene County 78-67 in region play Friday (Jan. 15) at home.

“He’s really turned the corner the past couple of weeks,” Tigers’ coach Russ Gregg said. “He’s been shooting the ball really well, playing under control. It’s almost like the game slowed down for him the other night … It was just a great performance.”

Gregg said Lord’s 32 points were the most scored by a player in the coach’s four years on the job at Commerce.

“To come from a sophomore, that’s pretty special,” Gregg said.

The Tigers (4-11, 2-2 Region 8-A Public) built a seven-point lead (40-33) at halftime and extended that to 15 points (58-43) at the end of three quarters.

Lord was red-hot from the floor, shooting 14-of-18 (78 percent). That included going 4-for-5 from the 3-point arc.

Shaquario Sherrod added 12 points. Ten different players scored for Commerce, which shot 50 percent from the floor in the win.

Gregg pointed out that his team had 32 field goals on the night with 24 assists.

“Which means we shared the ball,” he said, adding that the 24 assists were the most the team has had since he’s been the coach.

Ian McConnell finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. Dominic Ricci had six assists. Shawn Cunningham had eight rebounds and three steals.

The Tigers also hosted their senior night against Greene County.

“We were excited about that, and it went really smoothly,” Gregg said.

Commerce will return to play Saturday (Jan. 23, 7:30 p.m.) at Social Circle — allowing the team four days of practice this week — and then plays three region opponents — Lake Oconee Academy, Lincoln County and Washington-Wilkes — next week.

“The next two weeks are pretty big for us,” Gregg said.

The team hopes it all sets up for a strong finish to the regular season.

“The goal the whole time was to be playing the best basketball we can at the end of the season,” Gregg said.

BOYS’ BASKETBALL: Eagles fall 70-44 to second-ranked Bulldogs

East Jackson suffered a lopsided loss to Class AAA No. 2-ranked Hart County Friday (Jan. 15), falling 70-44 at home in region play.

The Eagles (3-5, 0-2 Region 8-AAA) got 19 points and four rebounds from Makayal Rakestraw and 11 points and six assists from Kendrick Carson.

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL: Panthers drop region game to second-place Greenbrier

The Jackson County girls’ basketball team suffered its second-straight region loss, falling to 54-14 on the road Friday (Jan. 15) to second-place Greenbrier.

The Panthers (4-9, 2-4 Region 8-AAAAA), who lost to first-place Loganville a day earlier, resume their region schedule Tuesday (Jan. 19, 6 p.m.) on the road at Eastside.

BOYS’ BASKETBALL: Clinton scores 40 in Panther loss

BOYS’ BASKETBALL: Clinton scores 40 in Panther loss

With a 40-point night from Kalib Clinton, the Jackson County boys’ basketball team fell just short of upsetting one of the top teams in the region as they lost to Greenbrier 68-63 on the road Friday (Jan. 15).

Clinton had missed the previous two games.

"Being that Kalib had been out for two games, he was anxious to get back on the court and help his team," coach Bryan Parker said. "Kalib is a special player for sure and obviously had a great game on Friday night.

Parker said Clinton was more focus on the Panthers' loss than his 40-point night.

"Throughout his career, he has piled up some amazing individual stats, but never really had any success as far as wins go," Parker said. "Kalib is really focused on winning games this year and having success as a team. As a coach, this is what you want."

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL: Dragons remain perfect in region with rout of North Oconee

The Jefferson girls’ basketball team remained perfect in 8-AAAA play with a 66-42 win over North Oconee Friday (Jan. 15).

The Dragons are 4-0 in region play.

Jefferson broke open the game after halftime, outscoring the Titans 37-16 over the final two quarters after leading by three points at the break.

Ellie Kinlaw led the Dragons with 22 points on the strength of an 8-for-17 performance at the 3-point line. Deshona Gaither added 11 points and eight rebounds, while Livi Blackstock had 10 points eight rebounds and eight assists. Hailey Triaga added 10 points.

Kinlaw and Allianne Clark each had three steals. Clark finished with seven rebounds.

Jefferson returns to region play Tuesday (Jan. 19, 6 p.m.) at home against Madison County.

BOYS’ BASKETBALL: Dragons secure big region win over North Oconee

The Jefferson boys’ basketball team kept pace in the race for first-place in 8-AAAA with a 59-56 win over North Oconee Friday (Jan. 15).

The Dragons, who are in a three-way tie with North Oconee and Madison County atop the region, lost a 34-28 halftime lead, falling behind 47-41 after three quarters, before outscoring the Titans 18-9 in the final period.

Kam Robinson, who scored 10 points, went 7-of-8 from the free-throw line, four of which came down the stretch.

“We did play pretty good offensively three out of four quarters, shot the 3 well,” coach Kevin Morris said.

Dalen Gales, who recently returned from football, led Jefferson with 16 points, which included four 3-pointers.

“Dalen did shoot it well but that was the best defensive game he has played,” Morris said. “When Dalen plays both ends of the floor the way he did, he's a huge weapon.”

Jefferson has won nine of its last 10 games and now has all of its football-playing athletes back in the fold.

“Football guys have been great for us,” Morris said. “We have been able to rest guys and keep everyone fresh. Practices have been very competitive and that is the way to improve. I think the win-loss record (8-3) before the football guys got here and now to add them and all they bring to the team, we are playing with a lot of confidence.”

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