The Jefferson boys’ basketball team made sure a strong regular season concluded with a strong finish.
The Dragons (16-7, 9-3 Region 8-AAA) scored the first 11 points of the game and built a 23-3 lead early in the second quarter in coasting to a 62-37 win over visiting Jackson County Friday (Jan. 31) in the final game before region-tournament play.
Jefferson, ranked No. 7 in Class AAA according to MaxPreps, has won seven games in a row and 12 of its last 14.
“And a lot of those have been big wins, 20-plus points,” Dragon coach Kevin Morris said. “So, I hope that we’ve hit our stride, and I hope that we’re peaking at the right time.”
Daniel Parker scored 15 points, and Malaki Starks added 12 points in the win. Jefferson played without starting point guard Kam Robinson, who was sick. The Dragons shot 49 percent from the floor and went 8-of-9 from the free throw line.
Bryce Blake paced Jackson County with 15 points. Panther standout Kailb Clinton, who is averaging 26.75 points and 10.15 rebounds per game, sat out with an injury.
Jackson County (7-15, 2-10 Region 8-AAA) finished as the No. 6 seed with the loss and will play Morgan County Monday (Feb. 3) at East Jackson at 5:30 p.m. in the Region 8-AAA play-in game.
All 12 of Starks’ points came in the first half as he helped pace Jefferson to a 41-16 lead at the break. The Dragons posted 28 points in the second quarter alone with eight different Jefferson players getting into the scorebook during the period.
Parker provided nine points in the third quarter to help grow Jefferson's lead to 57-27 at the end of three quarters.
With a large fourth-quarter lead, the Dragons were able to work in their subs and bring each senior off the floor individually to receive an ovation on senior night.
“I was glad that we were able to get those seniors out there and get them some playing time, get them out one at a time and just be able to recognize them for all that they’ve done for this program,” Morris said.
Jefferson’s starting lineup for the night consisted only of seniors. Leading scorer Jacob Radaker, who had eight points and eight rebonds, was the lone Dragon senior not to start. He did so at his request to allow the other five seniors to have that honor.
“Jacob said, ‘I won’t start,’” Morris said. “That’s the kind of kids that we have. Just unselfish. Just good kids.”
Morris, who is in his third year with the program, said this senior class means a lot to him.
“This group of seniors has, when I look back on things, they’ll be the group that I think of that really turned everything around,” he said.
The Dragons will go into the Region 8-AAA tournament as the No. 1 seed as a result of their win and Hart County’s loss to Franklin County.
Jefferson, which will open play Thursday (Feb. 6) at 8:30 p.m. in the semifinals at Emmanuel College, enters the postseason playing its best basketball of the year.
“Like I told the them (the players), we’re hoping for seven more games,” Morris said, referencing the number of games it would take to play for a state championship.