Jefferson’s 61-55 win over West Hall Saturday in the final round of the Tabo’s Tip-Off tournament revealed two things about this Dragon team coach Bolling DuBose said.
One: It can rally to beat a good team. Jefferson trailed the Spartans by 10 at one point.
Two: The Dragons can win without being full strength. One of Jefferson’s main scorers, Bryant Shirreffs, was on a football recruiting trip to the University of North Carolina.
“It was a really good win for us,” DuBose said, noting how well West Hall had played in the tournament. “They (the Spartans) hung with Roswell and had a shot to beat them in the fourth quarter. Of course, Roswell ended up winning the whole tournament, so I do think that was a good win for us for several reasons.”
Austin Thompson — who’s averaging 15.7 points a game — scored a season-high 25 points as Jefferson secured a third-place finish in the Tabo’s tournament. Thompson hit three three-pointers and eight of nine free throws to beat a West Hall team that went 24-6 last year in Class AAA.
“I think he relaxed and shot the ball a lot better in the second half,” DuBose said.
First-year varsity player Satchel Turpin – filling in for Shirreffs — added 11 points. His fourth-quarter bucket at the 4:25 mark gave Jefferson a 48-45 lead and was part of an 11-0 Jefferson run during which the Dragons overtook the Spartans.
Jefferson had trailed West Hall 45-39 early in the fourth quarter.
Eleven of Thompson’s points came in the final period, including an 8-for-8 performance at the free throw line. Thompson’s free throws with 23 seconds left gave the Dragons a six-point edge. He then hit two more with seven seconds left to help seal the win.
DuBose said his team played smarter offensively in the second half and clamped down defensively. He would, however, like to see his team shoot with more consistency throughout a game.
“We really haven’t shot the ball well,” DuBose said.
In fact, he said his team tends to “shoot itself into a hole” in the first half.
Case in point: Jefferson’s 55-46 setback to Franklin County (a Final Four club last year in Class AAA). Jefferson trailed 29-14 at the half after it settled for too many three-pointers and shot poorly from beyond the arc. In fact, the Dragons only connected on 3-of-16 attempts.
“We kind of dug ourselves into a big hole,” DuBose said. “We ended up coming back several times in the second half and cutting their lead to two or three points.”
Shirreffs led Jefferson with 15 points in that game.
Looking ahead, Jefferson hosts Winder-Barrow Friday and then travels to Rabun County — one of the best teams on the other side of Region 8-AA — for a big road game Saturday (this was originally a Jefferson home game).
The Wildcats, who defeated Jefferson in the region tournament last year, return Tanner Plemmons, who DuBose calls “probably the best shooter in the region.”
“I think our kids are looking forward to that,” DuBose said. “We want to go ahead and get a look at them.”