THE FORMULA for Jefferson’s solid 59-39 victory over North Oconee Tuesday wasn’t complicated: Hard play and defense.
“I did think we played hard for the third game in a row and that’s what I want to see,” coach Bolling DuBose said. “ … The problem that I saw with us (in recent games) was that we just quit playing hard. We preach to them all the time that if you play hard all the time, good things are going to happen.”
Jefferson’s David Watson grabs a rebound in the Dragons’ Tuesday night victory over North Oconee. Watson led Jefferson with 14 points.
True to that message, Jefferson (8-10, 3-3) held the Titans to under 40 points in getting back to the .500 mark in subregion play.
DuBose correctly predicted to his team during half time that North Oconee would wear down late if the Dragons just kept applying the defensive pressure.
“I said that if we keep playing hard on defense, they won’t score 40,” DuBose said. “And they didn’t.”
Jefferson outscored the Titans 15-2 in the final six minutes to win the game convincingly.
Offensively, David Watson led Jefferson with 12 points while Bryant Shirreffs added 11 and Andre Daniel threw in 10. Joe Boyd, who DuBose considered not playing after having six stitches put in after Saturday’s game with Flowery Branch, sparked the team with nine points off the bench.
“We just weren’t doing a lot, and I thought he did a good job of coming off the bench and giving us a lift offensively,” DuBose said.
Jefferson actually trailed 22-21 at the half but used a 16-5 run to build a 10-point lead late in the third quarter. Then the Dragons dominated the fourth, leading by 22 at one point. DuBose was able to insert his junior varsity players for the final two minutes.
“I think (in) the second half, we kept our defensive intensity,” DuBose said.
Jefferson hopes this recent hard-playing trend is a sign of better things to come as its approaches the backstretch of the subregion schedule. Jefferson has huge 8-AA South contests awaiting it this week against Hart County Friday on the road and Elbert County Saturday at home.
“If we don’t play hard against them (Hart and Elbert), we’re going to get embarrassed,” DuBose said. “It’s a good sign that we’ve played three-straight games hard.”
If Jefferson, which is now 3-3 in subregion standings, wants to make a move up the 8-AA South ladder, this is the time to do it since Elbert County and Hart County are first and second in the region standings respectively.
The Dragons are approaching this weekend carefully.
“I think the important thing is, you want to get them prepared, but with two game that are going to be as hard as we’re going to have to play Friday and Saturday, you don’t have them worn out,” DuBose said. “It’s kind of late in the season, you don’t want their legs tired. We might even take (tomorrow) off.”
Three days prior to the North Oconee win, Jefferson suffered an overtime loss out of region play, losing to Class AAAA Flowery Branch 51-48 Saturday night.
Watson paced the Dragons with 14 points. Boyd came off the bench and added eight.
After struggling defensively in the first quarter, Jefferson switched from an ineffective zone defense to a man-to-man defense in the second quarter and surrendered only 18 points combined in the second and third quarters.
Jefferson didn’t help the cause offensively down the stretch, however, scoring just two points in the fourth quarter and two in the overtime period — four points in a 12-minute span.
In the extra period, Dustin Casey hit a jumper with 2:30 left to give Jefferson a 48-46 lead. But Flowery Branch answered with a three-pointer with just under a minute left.
The Dragons missed two free throw attempts in the final 20 seconds while Flowery Branch hit a pair to give them a three-point edge. Jefferson then missed a 40-foot desperation heave at the buzzer.
DuBose said the main culprit in this loss was defensive boards — or lack thereof. The coach said his team allowed Flowery Branch too many second, third and sometimes even fourth shots.
“They just kept shooting until they finally scored,” DuBose said.