Jefferson had already routed Flowery Branch twice this year and wanted to make sure the third meeting was no different.
The No. 8-ranked Dragons (18-4) ran out to leads of 20-4 after a quarter and 37-10 at the half in a 68-22 win over Flowery Branch (3-18) at home Tuesday (Feb. 16) in the first round of the Region 8-AAAA tournament.
“Everybody goes into the game thinking they have a chance to win, and we need to make sure we eliminate that thought really quick,” Jefferson coach Kevin Morris said of his pregame message. “I felt like we did a really good job of that tonight.”
Jefferson, which clinched a spot in the state tournament with the win, will play North Oconee Thursday (Feb. 18, 5 p.m.) in the region semifinals at Flowery Branch. The Dragons will attempt to advance to a region final for the fourth time in four years under Morris.
“I feel like we’re close to hitting our stride,” Morris said. “I feel like that’s what you want tournament time, you want to be playing well, and I think we are.”
At 18-4, the Dragons have one of their best regular season records in years, despite not having their entire roster until early January due to the Jefferson football team’s run to the state finals.
“With football and COVID and everything else that’s gone on, to be sitting here at 18-4, going to the state tournament again, I’m just really proud of our kids,” Morris said.
J.T. Fulkrod led the Dragons against Flowery Branch with 14 points, Spencer Darby finished with 11 points and Kadin Bailey added 10 points as Jefferson won for the 17th time in its last 19 games.
A 14-2 run to open the game led to commanding leads after a quarter and at the half. Jefferson then hit five 3-pointers during a 24-point third quarter to open up a 43-point lead.
The Dragons sank 10 3-pointers in the win, nine of which came in the first three quarters.
Morris said he was proud that his team played sharp for the entirety of the game.
“A lot of times when you build that big of a lead, you get crappy at that point,” he said. “You start playing for yourself and doing all that kind of stuff, and we didn’t do that. Even right there to the end, I felt like our guys still guarded people well … I’m just proud of this team and how they work and how they compete.”