‘Twas the season to get back on the winning track.
The Jefferson girls’ basketball team (5-7, 0-2) used the pre-Christmas Lanierland tournament to cure its December woes by winning two of three games in the event.
Jefferson coach Jason Gibson credited an improved effort on the defensive boards and a re-energized offense for the Lady Dragons’ strong finish.
“I thought we were much more aggressive offensively,” Gibson said, adding that the Lady Dragons also took better care of the basketball.
Jefferson, which returns to subregion play Jan. 3 against Hart County, had lost six of its last eight going in.
The Lady Dragons saved their best performance for last, beating Class AAAA Flowery Branch 53-47 last Wednesday.
Flowery Branch advanced to the Class AAAA state tournament last year and returned much of that squad this year.
“We told our kids that this would be a good game to measure ourselves,” Gibson said.
Rachel Goza turned in her season-best performance thus far, leading Jefferson with 16 points.
“This is the first time all year that I’ve seen her play with that level of confidence,” Gibson said. “She did a great job on both ends of the floor.”
Skylar Evanson, who scored in double figures in each game at the Lanierland tournament, added 15 points. Brianna Whatley finished with 12.
Jefferson saw a 15-point third-quarter lead trimmed to eight at the end of the period and then to a single point in the fourth quarter.
“I was really curious to see how our kids would handle that,” Gibson said.
Rather well, it turned out.
The Lady Dragons ran their lead back out to seven in holding off the Lady Falcons.
“They really kept their composure,” Gibson said.
Jefferson entered the Flowery Branch game coming off a 41-38 victory over West Hall, which beat the Lady Dragons narrowly twice last season.
Evanson led Jefferson with 18 points.
The Lady Dragons opened the tournament with a 54-34 loss to Chestatee, an 8-3 team in Class AAA.
Gibson called Chestatee “one of the better teams we’ve played.”
The bad news from the holidays? Jefferson appears to have lost post player Bailey Boyd for another extended stretch of time. The sophomore suffered a season-ending knee injury last year and re-injured that same left knee in the Dec. 19 loss to Chestatee.
It’s uncertain yet how much time Boyd will miss but Gibson said his team will soldier on.
“Our kids have kind of taken the attitude that they’re going to step up and do whatever it takes,” Gibson said.