The Jefferson boys’ basketball team likes to push the tempo, but so does its state quarterfinals opponent – a lot.
The Dragons (20-7) are set to take on Monroe-Albany (21-6) Wednesday (Feb. 26) at 7:30 p.m. at home.
“They’re athletic,” Jefferson head coach Kevin Morris said. “They really push the ball, even on makes. They get the ball and go … Even when you make shots, we’re going to have to do a really good job of getting back and getting our defense set before they get there.”
Morris said no one that his team played during its Region 8-AAA schedule compares to the Region 1-AAA Golden Tornadoes in terms of style of play.
“They’re going to play really fast,” Morris said. “I don’t know that we’ve played anybody that’s played that fast.”
But this is a Jefferson team that tries to force the tempo in each game it plays, so the pace of the game might suit the Dragons. As Morris put it, “we don’t mind playing fast.”
“We won’t have to work very hard to force the tempo,” he said.
This is Jefferson’s first appearance in the Elite Eight since 2014 when the Dragons played in Class AA and hosted and lost to Greater Atlanta Christian 60-47 in the quarterfinals.
The winner of this game will face Central-Macon or Windsor Forrest Saturday (Feb. 29) in the Final Four at Valdosta State. Jefferson is trying to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2010.
The Dragons, winners of 11-straight games, have the advantage of playing this game at home. Monroe-Albany will have to make the 3.5-hour trip to play in Jefferson’s arena-style venue, which is set up different spatially than most high school gyms. With more space behind the goal than most venues, Jefferson’s arena could be uncomfortable for teams that don’t regularly play there.
“I think our gym has a big advantage in shooting,” Morris said. “It’s a little bit different than most high school kids have to deal with.”
The third-year Jefferson coach said one of the keys for his team is to maintain its composure in a game of this magnitude. Morris said his players can’t be so excited that they’re just happy to be there.
But what he’s seen in the state tournament so far doesn’t indicate that will be the case. He said this team wants to win a state championship.
Morris noted that he was doused with the water cooler after the Dragons’ region title win, but since then, the post-game locker room has been subdued and sharply focused, Morris said.
“It’s like on-to-the-next-one,” he said. “We’ve really had a businessman-like attitude about winning these last couple of games for sure.”