Jefferson made sure it didn’t go into its first rivalry game of the year carrying the baggage of a third-straight loss.
After consecutive setbacks, the Dragons (3-3) beat Oconee County 74-65 Tuesday as Friday’s grudge match with Commerce nears.
Jefferson’s Andre Daniel takes the ball to the rack in the Dragons’ Tuesday win over Oconee County. Photo by Ben Munro
“It was a good win for us,” Jefferson coach Bolling DuBose said. “We’re 3-3, but we’ve played six really good teams.”
Now the Dragons can focus on a game with Commerce that’s not a region game but carries sentimental importance. DuBose said there’s been a lot talk regarding this year’s series between these long-time rivals. Commerce, the defending Region 8-A champions, beat Jefferson for the first time since 2000 last year. DuBose said this is a big game for his team.
“They’re our arch rivals,” he said. “They hate us. We hate them ... There’s been talk this summer that they’re going to beat us twice this year. We’ll see.”
Jefferson’s leading scorer, David Watson, acknowledged some of that discussion.
“It’s going to be a big rivalry game,” Watson said. “The word out there is that they’re going to beat us by 30 this year. But I don’t think that will happen.”
As for Tuesday night, Jefferson beat Oconee County behind 23 points from Watson. The Dragons led 33-28 at the half after a buzzer beating lay-up from Watson. Jefferson ran its lead out to as much as 18 points in the fourth quarter and then held on for the win.
DuBose said his team stepped up its defensive effort in the third and fourth quarters.
“I thought our defense in the second half is what turned things around,” DuBose said.
Watson enjoyed his third game this year of 20 points or more. His 23-point performance against Oconee County came after he was held to just four points in Jefferson’s previous game. Watson hit five three’s against the Warriors Tuesday.
“I came out ready to play because of the bad game I had,” Watson said. “I’m just working on my consistency.”
Tuesday’s victory came after a rough weekend in which the Dragons tripped up at Mountain View Saturday (60-57) a night after losing a heartbreaker to Johnson, 84-83.
Austin Thompson led Jefferson with 10 points against Mountain View, a Class AAAAA team which had 13 seniors.
Andrew Bartek added eight points and grabbed six rebounds before leaving the game halfway through third quarter.
Bryant Shirreffs finished with eight points.
DuBose said his team didn’t necessarily play a bad game but there was certainly room for improvement.
That includes at the free throw line, where the Dragons went just 8-of-19.
Jefferson’s free throw woes were a continuation of its Friday loss to Johnson. Jefferson produced a furious rally but 24 missed free throws on the evening thwarted the Dragons’ comeback attempt.
The Dragons finished 25-of-49 from the charity stripe.
Jefferson rallied from 16 points down in the second quarter to take two fourth quarter leads, but Johnson hit five of six free throws in the last 44 seconds to seal the victory.
“That was a great high school basketball game,” DuBose said. “I just hate it that we didn’t make more free throws.”
Jefferson got another big night from the streaky Watson, who scored 33 points the losing effort.
While Jefferson struggled at the free throw line, Johnson had no problems hitting from the three-point arc in the first half.
The Knights racked up eight treys in the first two quarters, including six in the second quarter, as they built a double-digit lead over the Dragons.