JEFFERSON would create some bona fide “February madness” this week if it shocks one of the state’s preeminent basketball powers. The second-seeded Dragons (20-9) attempt to take down two-time defending state champion Greater Atlanta Christian (24-5) on the road Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Spartans are ranked no. 1 in Class AA and led by one of the best coaches in the state.
“Other than that, there’s not a whole lot to worry about,” Jefferson coach Bolling DuBose joked.
The top-seeded Spartans are coached by Eddie Martin, who has won five championship rings, including the two with GAC.
“There ain’t a single person outside our locker room that thinks we’re going to win,” DuBose said. “I doubt there’s anybody in Jefferson that thinks we’re going to win. The pressure is on them.”
Greater Atlanta Christian, winners of 17 of its last 18, rotates seven players, four of which are over 6’6” as it shoots for a three-peat in Class AA.
But the team’s catalyst is 5’9” point guard Collin Swinton, who likes to penetrate and set everyone up.
“He’s just a really good floor general … I think it will be a really good matchup with him and (Jefferson point guard) Andre (Daniel),” DuBose said.
DuBose said 6’3” shooting guard Delano Spencer, a Parkview transfer, is GAC’s best defender and likely its best overall player. The Spartans’ top perimeter shooting threat is 6’6” small forward Cole Hobbs, who would much rather shoot the three than take the ball inside, DuBose said.
GAC also features a pair of 6’7” posts, one with a recognizable last name. Isaiah Wilkins, a sophomore, is the son of former Atlanta Hawk great Dominique Wilkins and is the Spartans’ best player down low.
“He can step out and shoot the 15-footer,” DuBose said. “(He’s) really good around the basket, really quick, a good athlete and blocks a lot of shots on defense.”
The other 6’7” post is Robert Armstrong, who DuBose said is the definition of power forward playing inside.
Greater Atlanta Christian’s top bench options are 6’6” center Andrew Lewis and 6’1” sharpshooting freshman guard Cameron Boyd.
“Like I’ve said, they’ve got size,” DuBose said of GAC. “They can shoot it outside. They can take it inside. They play a variety of defenses.”
Jefferson, meanwhile, has been riding the hot shooting of Austin Thompson throughout the postseason. The senior is averaging 26.5 points per game since the start of the region tournament. He torched North Murray with 34 points Saturday in the first round of the state tournament (click here to read story).
No doubt, GAC will try to take that scoring option away.
“I’ve known Eddie (Martin) long enough to know that they’re going to do something to try to prevent Austin from getting the ball,” DuBose said.
Others must get involved in the offense if Jefferson is going to pull off the shocker. The Dragons must also have a great night shooting from the three-point line and mid-range since scoring opportunities and second chances down low will be limited given GAC’s size.
Ideally, Jefferson wants to turn this into a running game, something the Spartans generally don’t prefer to do.
“Obviously, we’re going to have to play probably the best game we’ve played all year and force them to do some things that maybe they don’t want to do,” DuBose said.
But the coach believes strongly in his group.
His message as his team embarks on this giant-killing quest: Jefferson won’t back down.
“Anybody that doesn’t believe we’re going to win the game and that we can upset them, just don’t get on the bus,” DuBose said.
DIRECTIONS TO GAC: Take I-85 South. Exit on Indian Trail Road and take a left. The school is 0.8 miles on the right. The gym is called the Long Forum.