Having not played in 14 days, the Jefferson boys’ basketball team shook off the rust in the second half against Chestatee and won with room to spare.
The Dragons (6-3, 1-1 Region 8-AAAA) beat the War Eagles 72-59 Tuesday on the road, leading by 26 points at one point in the fourth quarter as Jefferson was dominant for most of the final two quarters in the region victory.
The Dragons outscored Chestatee 19-5 in the first 5:32 of the second half.
“I like the way we defended in the third quarter,” Jefferson coach Kevin Morris said. “Good defense led to some easy baskets, and then we started to make some shots.”
Four Dragons reached double figures, led by Josh Howell, who finished with 14 points. Dalen Gales and J.T. Fulkrod each added 11 points, while Romaine Harriott finished with 10.
Jefferson, which has been shorthanded for most of the season without its football-playing athletes, has won five of its last six games. The Dragons were able to play several of those dual-sport athletes in Tuesday’s win.
“Trying to get some of those football guys some time on the court was big tonight,” Morris said.
Though the Dragons got rolling in the second half, they received a spark from Riley Holliman at the end of the first half after the junior guard buried a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the corner to give Jefferson a 32-30 lead heading into the halftime locker room.
Chestatee tied the game briefly, 32-32, to open the third quarter, but Jefferson took over from there, starting with a traditional 3-point play from Howell that sparked a 14-0 run as the Dragons separated themselves from the War Eagles. Jefferson later took a 16-point lead (51-35) after Spencer Darby hit a layup and went careening out of bounds under the basket after being fouled. The senior sank a free throw, converting the 3-point play.
Jefferson led 54-39 after three quarters of play before Dalen Gales opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer at the top of the key. Fulkrod drained a 3-pointer from the same spot moments later to push the end to 60-39. Jefferson enjoyed its biggest lead of the game, at 70-44, when Harriott threw down a dunk in transition with 3:30 remaining.
The Dragons went deep into their bench during the final 2:15, playing their younger players, as Chestatee narrowed the final margin.
Jefferson returns to action Friday (Jan. 8, 8:30 p.m.) at home against region opponent East Hall.