The Jefferson girls’ basketball team is playing host for the holidays in a sense, but didn’t want its visiting opponent feeling too comfortable.
Opening play Saturday (Nov. 23) in their Thanksgiving-season Tabo’s Tip-Off Tournament, the Dragons (5-0) sought to hurry and press Winder-Barrow, and did so successfully, building an early lead and rolling to a 64-37 win over the Class AAAAAA Bulldoggs.
“We wanted to speed it up, and get it going as fast as we can, and we knew we were going to play a lot of kids tonight, and we did because I felt like that was our advantage … I thought our press was good, and we got off to a good start,” Dragon coach Greg Brown said. “I think that kind of dictated the flow of the game from then on.”
Deshona Gaither led Jefferson with 17 points, followed by Livi Blackstock (14 points) and Ellie Kinlaw (12 points).
Forcing a number of early turnovers, paired with 3-point shots each from Kinlaw and Allianne Clark, Jefferson ran out to a 19-9 lead after a quarter. Kinlaw then gave the Dragons momentum late in the second quarter. With Jefferson leading 26-16, Kinlaw converted a rare four-point play, draining a 3-pointer from the right side of the floor in front of a defender, drawing a foul. She then sank the subsequent free throw, giving the Dragons a 30-16 lead with 2:29 left before the half. Shortly after, she nailed a 3-pointer to increase the lead to 17 points. Jefferson led 36-18 at halftime.
“She’s such a good shooter," Brown said of Kinlaw, "and she’s a weapon for us coming off the bench … she’s one of the few out there that I don’t ever get onto for taking a bad shot because she’s capable of making any of them.”
Jefferson stretched its lead out to 30 points — 59-29 — at the end of the third after outscoring the Bulldoggs 23-11. Brown said he was pleased with how his team played during the quarter, especially the later part of it.
“I wanted us to go into the third quarter thinking it was 0-0,” he said. “’Let’s come out and set the tone again,’ and I thought we did that. It was a little slow to start, and then we hit our stride there kind of midway through the third and got it going in.”
Brown was then able to empty the rest of his bench in the fourth quarter as Jefferson picked up the 27-point win.
The coach said his No. 2-ranked team is playing with the right energy, but it needs more consistency.
“I think we’re playing well at times, but we’ve just got to get to where we’re playing well all the time,” Brown said. “I think we’re playing really hard. So right now, I’m happy with that.”
Jefferson will play Druid Hills Monday (Nov. 25) at 6 p.m. in the second round of the tournament. Brown said this will be another early-season test.
“That’s kind of what we wanted, and we’ve been in some tough games already,” Brown said. “But this will be a good test for us over the next couple of days, seeing a little bit different style. We saw a very athletic team (Saturday), and we’re going to see another athletic team Monday. So, it’s a good tournament with a lot of good competition.”