THE JACKSON County boys celebrated their 10th win of the season Friday but now have to rebound from their latest loss.
Four days after reaching double digits in the victory column, Jackson County (10-11, 4-6) let one slip away on the road in a 57-48 loss to Elbert County.
“We had that game and we just got crazy and turned the ball over,” coach Britt Beaver said.
The Panthers led 18-16 at the half before getting outscored 18-6 in the third quarter.
“We just hit a rut and it was turnover, turnover,” Beaver said.
Jared Scott led Jackson County with a career-high 18 points and Jarvis Shaw added 14 points. Kolin Zimmer was held to just seven. Jackson County had a standout night at the charity stripe in the loss, hitting 12-of-14 free throws.
With the setback — their sixth in seven games — the Panthers were left looking at what could have been, seeing an inspired first half go by the wayside.
“We really played well,” Beaver said. “We held them to 16 points in the first half. They (the Blue Devils) were frustrated.”
Now, the Panthers have two games remaining – both against rivals – in regular season play.
Jackson County faces East Jackson in an intra-county clash Friday at home. The Panthers then have a week off before facing cross-town rival Jefferson next Friday (Feb. 11).
Jackson County could finish anywhere from third to fifth in the subregion, but Beaver said there’s little difference between those three spots in the region tournament.
Though Jackson County lost Tuesday, there was reason to celebrate over the weekend when the Panthers took down Oglethorpe County to get them to 10 wins.
With a 47-45 victory over the Patriots, Jackson County reached the 10-win plateau for the first time in 10 years. The Panther players were fully aware of what they had done.
“I walked in the locker room and Jarvis Shaw had 10 fingers up because it’s been over a decade since we’ve had double digit wins,” Beaver said.
The Panthers, who trailed 21-16 at the half, overcame a 31-24 third-quarter deficit to end a five-game losing streak and get them to 10 wins.
“If there’s anything you can say about the four years we’ve (been here) is we’ve all kind of hung in this thing,” Beaver said. “These kids have never quit. We’ve hung around. And I mean we’ve had some rough seasons, but they’ve kept working.”
Zimmer led the Panthers with 11 points as they picked up their first victory since beating Oglethorpe County back on Jan. 4.
Logan Smith — who sank a free throw in that game to beat the Patriots — hit a pair of free throws with 47 seconds left Friday to put Jackson County up 45-42.
Shaw, who finished with eight points, then grabbed a key defensive rebound later and hit two more free throws with seven seconds left to seal the win.
“We needed that one,” Beaver said. “We needed that one really bad, because when you work as hard as they do, you ought to get those. The last few that have been close, the kids have been frustrated, but they’re just not going to quit. We had a good week of practice; they worked hard.”
Jackson County got a huge boost from a pair of freshmen in the victory. Nick Corso hit a big three-pointer to put Jackson County ahead 12-10 in the second quarter. Xayvier Harper finished with six points. That included two big buckets in the second half during Jackson County’s rally.
“We’re really excited about those guys,” Beaver said.