JEFFERSON – For the first time in the Kevin Morris era, the Jefferson boys basketball team are champions of the Jackson EMC Tip-Off Classic.
The Dragons defeated Winder-Barrow 82-55 on Tuesday (Nov. 23) to win their home tournament. JT Fulkrod led the team with 23 points, scoring at all parts of the half-court. Kadin Bailey scored 14 points, mostly through physical shots near the rim. Dalen Gales added 12 points, half coming from long range.
“Not finally, this is the first time for me,” said Morris overjoyed of his team’s performance. “We’ve never been in [the finals] since I’ve been here. It’s awesome and the crowd was great too. The crowd was really energetic, they were really loud when we got on our runs. It was a hoping arena tonight. It was really fun.”
Jefferson (4-0, 0-0 Region 8-AAAA) led the entire game after Bailey and Jaden Butts knocked down a pair of shots near the rim, taking an early 4-0 lead. The Dragons led by as much as seven (11-4) at one point in the first quarter.
However, Winder-Barrow (3-1, 0-0 Region 8-AAAAAA) was in the championship game for a reason. The Bulldogs fought back to cut the lead to 13-10 after the first quarter. They eventually cut the score to 21-20 in the middle of the second quarter. That’s as close as Winder-Barrow would get to taking the lead though. Jefferson ended the first half on a 9-3 run to take a 30-24 lead into halftime. Points in the run came from Bailey, Fulkrod and Guy Carson.
“We got off to a good start,” he said. “It kind of continued on from yesterday’s game. I was a little bit worried about having a letdown from playing such a tough game the night before. Especially with all the pressing and running.
“But we came out and shot it well, we handled their pressure well. We just did a great job of finding the open man and moving the basketball. It doesn’t matter how well you move the basketball, you have to make the shot at the end. And boy, we made some shots tonight.”
The second half was a totally different story. Jefferson outscored Winder-Barrow 52-31 in the final 16 minutes to turn the game into a blowout. The Dragons won 82-55 thanks to that dominant second half.
A Jackson EMC Tip-Off Classic championship is a big accomplishment for the Dragons, but Morris says his program has much larger goals in mind for this season.
“As good as this is, as much fun as we’re having right now, this doesn’t need to be the highlight of our season,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to talk about. We’re going to enjoy this through Thanksgiving, and we’re going to celebrate like crazy. But, we need to understand, if this is the best thing to happen to us this season, we’re going to be very disappointed.
“We’re going to enjoy it, but we also have to put it in perspective of the bigger goals that we want to accomplish at the end of the year.”
Jefferson will have all week to celebrate the tournament victory because the season resumes on Tuesday (Nov. 30) at Stephens County.