The Jefferson boys' basketball team defeated a pair of schools from South Carolina to advance to the McDonald's Shootout championship game Wednesday (Dec. 29) at Hart County. Jefferson will play J.L. Mann in the finals.
The Patriots advanced to the finals by routing Hart County 63-46 on Tuesday (Dec. 28). The Dragons blew out Greer 73-53 on Monday (Dec. 27) to advance to the semifinals. They won a close battle against Daniel 57-53 on Tuesday.
Jefferson (12-1, 3-0 Region 8-AAAA) has now won four straight games since losing to Mill Creek from Class AAAAAAA on Dec. 11; and are ranked No. 5 in Class AAAA. The Dragons are going for their second tournament win of the season after winning the Jackson EMC Tip Off Classic on Nov. 23.
"It'll be big for us," said head coach Kevin Morris. "I don't know if I've ever won two tournaments in the same year. That would be real big for us."
JEFFERSON 73, GREER 53
Jefferson opened the McDonald's shootout with a dominant 73-53 win over Greer.
Dalen Gales led the Dragons with 17 points and six rebounds. JT Fulkrod added 15 points, five boards and five assists.
"They're making shots and doing a really good job of setting each other up," Morris said. "Everybody is doing a good job of finding them in transition. We're running some good sets for them to get some shots. It's been a whole group effort in getting them those shots."
However, Kadin Bailey created the bulk of Jefferson's shots. The senior post player was a force down low and Greer's efforts to keep him from scoring only opened up shots for other Dragons.
"Kadin Bailey didn't score a whole lot of points, but he got us going," he said. "When we entered the post, he was able to kick it out for a couple of three-point shots."
Jefferson dominated from the get-go, leading 16-5 at the end of the first quarter and 37-16 at halftime. The Dragons led by around 30 points in the fourth quarter before Greer came back to make the final score a more respectable 73-53.
JEFFERSON 57, DANIEL 53
The Dragons started slow against Daniel, and survived a late-game rally to advance to the finals of the McDonald's Shootout.
Jefferson defeated Daniel 57-53 with a trio of Dragons reaching double-figures. Fulkrod led the team with 15 points, he added five rebounds and five assists. Bailey scored 14 points and grabbed eight boards. Dalen Gales scored 12 points, while grabbing five boards and tossing five assists.
The Lions suffocated Jefferson's offense in the first quarter and led 12-4 going into the second quarter. That's when Jefferson turned the day around. The Dragons outscored the Lions 28-10 to take a 32-22 lead into halftime.
"I think it was just a gradual thing where we kept doing what we were doing. We had some defense turn into offense and made some shots in transition."
"We haven't had very many close games lately. So, it was good for us to have a close game. We got to talk about some end-of-the-game situation stuff, and got to really work on some of that."
Jefferson's lead hung around 10-to-12 points into the fourth quarter when it gave up a big comeback. Greer tied the game late, but Jefferson recovered to win 57-53.
"We did a good job of keeping our composure," he said. "We were able to comeback and hold on to a win.
"I don't know if we did anything any different," Morris said. "We just made some shots in the second quarter where we had missed a bunch in the first. That got us going a bit. I thought that defensively, we played pretty well all night."
LADY DRAGONS ADVANCE TO SEMIFINALS OF LUMPKIN CO. TOURNAMENT
The Jefferson girls' basketball team advanced to the second round of the Kelly King Holiday Classic on Tuesday (Dec. 28) when Johns Creek was forced to forfeit the game. The Dragons will play Fannin County at 4 p.m. on Wednesday (Dec. 30).