The Jefferson boys’ basketball team earned one of its most impressive wins of the season, though it took an unconventional route to get there.
The Dragons (12-7, 5-3 Region 8-AAA) watched a 21-point lead dwindle to five points before securing a convincing 26-point win with an 83-57 victory over Franklin County (16-6, 6-3 Region 8-AAA) Friday (Jan. 17) at home. The victory avenged a 71-63 loss to Franklin County in December.
The Lions, who led Region 8-AAA coming into the week, is ranked No. 7 in Class AAA by MaxPreps.
“The thing about it is, they’re a good basketball team,” Jefferson coach Kevin Morris said. “You knew their run was coming, and it was just about how did we respond to that run. I thought we did an unbelievable job of handing that.”
Franklin County cut the Dragons’ lead down to 54-49 late in the third quarter, but Jefferson dominated the Lions the rest of the way — outscoring them 29-8 — in winning for the eighth time in 10 games.
Four Jefferson players reached double figures in the rout. Jacob Radaker led the Dragons with 20 points, while Malaki Starks added 14 points, Spencer Darby finished with 13 points and Kam Robinson chipped in 11 points.
The Dragons, ranked No. 10 in Class AAA by MaxPreps, blistered the Lions with a 29-point first quarter and went ahead 40-19 in the opening minutes of the second quarter when Radaker converted a pair of free throws. Jefferson took a 48-32 lead into halftime.
“I told them (the players) at halftime, ‘They’re going to make a run,'” Morris said. “'They’re going to make it. We’ve got to make sure we handle it and do what we’re supposed to do.'”
Franklin County did just that, working away at the deficit and eventually making it a two-possession game when Titus Brown hit a step-back jumper to make the score 54-49 with 1:48 left in the third. Brown’s jumper capped a 17-6 Lion run.
“During their run, it wasn’t like we did some really, really bad things,” Morris said. “I felt like we took some really quick shots. And I thought we turned it over, and really we turned it over on the rebound … We’d get some rebounds and instead of just securing it and trying to find somebody, we’d secure it and try to bust out and dribble.”
A 3-pointer from Darby stopped the run, and Starks followed with a basket in the closing seconds of the quarter to give the Dragons a 59-49 lead heading into the fourth.
Jefferson rode that momentum in the final quarter, opening with a bucket from Starks and getting a block from Radaker that led to a fast-break layup from Darby. Those baskets sparked an 8-2 run, which put Jefferson ahead 63-49.
The Dragons never looked back from there.
A Daniel Parker dunk with three minutes left pushed the lead over 20 at 74-53. Radaker added a dunk moments later for his final points of night as Jefferson won going away.
Morris said his team was able to find the holes in the Franklin County defense better later in the game.
“When they come and chase you, it leads to some turnovers,” he said, “but when they come and chase you, it also leads to some easy baskets for us. When they did the chasing, we hit some open people and we made some good passes.”
Defensively, the Dragons surrendered just four field goals over the last 9:41 of the game.
Morris praised his team’s half-court scheme.
“When we sat down in the half court, there was nothing easy for them,” he said. “We really, really played as good of a defensive game as I can remember us playing … against a great offensive team.”
Jefferson is off until Tuesday (Jan. 21) when it plays at Morgan County. The Dragons’ Saturday (Jan. 18) game against Class AAAAA No. 9-ranked Buford was canceled.