Jefferson boys’ basketball coach Kevin Morris felt his team played well for three quarters against Jackson County, but it was the fourth quarter that kept him from being totally satisfied.
The Dragons (10-7, 3-3 Region 8-AAA) beat the Panthers 58-44 Tuesday (Jan. 7) in a region game on the road after leading by 24 points with just under six minutes left in the game.
“We’ve had too many of those leads where we’ve let people creep back into games where we shouldn’t … We just shoot them right back into the game,” Morris said. “We just don’t make good decisions. As senior and as experienced as we are, we shouldn’t lose leads like that.”
Jefferson had four scorers reach double figures led by Jacob Radaker, who finished with 14 points. Spencer Darby added 13 points. Malaki Starks finished with 12 points, which included three baskets late in the second quarter to key a 9-3 spurt that put the Dragons ahead 28-19 at the half. Kam Robinson chipped in 10 points.
Jackson County’s Kalib Clinton scored 26 points, though 12 of those came in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach, as the Panthers (4-10, 1-5 Region 8-AAA) dropped their fourth-straight game. No other Panther reached double figures.
Jefferson limited Jackson County to just four points in the first quarter, and held Clinton scoreless for the first 9:40 of the game.
“Defensively, we did a really good job on Kalib,” said Morris, while also acknowledging Clinton’s big fourth quarter. “ … I thought we really did a good job of helping off him and knowing where he was and giving him the attention that he requires. I thought we did really good game planning for him.”
With Jefferson leading by nine at the half, the Dragons outscored the Panthers 19-6 in the third frame to break the game open and essentially put it away.
Darby capped the quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers to put Jefferson ahead 47-25 heading into the final quarter.
Jefferson’s largest lead came at 5:54 in the fourth quarter when a basket from Radaker put the Dragons ahead 51-27. But the Panthers, fueled by Clinton, closed with a 17-8 run.
Morris wasn’t pleased with the way the game ended.
“We get a lead, and we just lose our focus for some reason,” he said. “I don’t understand it. We’ve got enough leadership and enough experience that that shouldn’t happen, and it’s happened too many times this year.”
Jefferson travels to Monroe Area Friday (Jan. 10) for a region game, while the Panthers return to action Friday (Jan. 10) on the road at Hart County.