JACKSON County hosted Senior Night, but the Jefferson Lady Dragons had their own celebration plans in mind.
Jefferson stormed past the red-hot Lady Panthers with a 12-0 run in the final 4:18 to win 38-28 Friday, avenging a 50-40 loss back in December.
“Our girls had been looking forward to playing them again since they beat us before Christmas,” Jefferson coach Jason Gibson said. “We’d played well the past few weeks trying to kind of put some things together.”
The win gave the Lady Dragons three straight victories to close subregion play as they turned around a campaign trending downward after January losses to North Oconee and Hart County.
“We needed to kind of find a little bit more of an identity, and I think our kids have done that,” Gibson said.
Brianna Whatley led Jefferson with 10 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter. Rachel Goza added eight points.
Mason Garland paced Jackson County — which had won eight of 10 — with 13 points, including three threes.
But Lady Panther post players Danni Cunningham and Katie Phillips —both so valuable for Jackson County in the first meeting with Jefferson —were limited to a combined two points.
“I thought our kids did a great job defensively, especially interior defense tonight (Friday),” Gibson said.
Jefferson led 6-5 after a quarter, but Jackson County took a 13-10 lead off a three-pointer from Macey Latty late in the second quarter. Jefferson answered with a bucket from Kellie Goza with 1:26 left in the half, but Jackson County worked the remainder of the clock down and got the ball to Victoria Woods, whose buzzer-beater gave the Lady Panthers a 15-12 lead.
Jackson County had seemingly seized the momentum in the third quarter when Macey Latty hit a three-pointer at the 3:15 mark to put the Lady Panthers up 22-17.
But Jefferson answered with a 6-0 spurt to end the quarter, capped by a steal and layup from Rachel Goza to put the Lady Dragons up 23-22.
The teams traded shots during the first four minutes of the fourth quarter.
Jackson County’s Victoria Fontana nailed a three-pointer with 4:34 in the fourth quarter to give the Lady Panthers a 28-26 lead. Those, however, were the final points for Jackson County.
Whatley tied the game at 28 with a bucket under the basket and then hit a jumper from the free throw line with 3:45 left in the game to put Jefferson ahead 30-28.
“I felt like Brianna did a great job,” Gibson said. “She stepped up and hit a couple of mid-range jumpers right there in the paint off of some in-bounds plays and really played well tonight.”
Skylar Evanson then scored on a driving layup to increase the lead to 32-28.
The Lady Dragons hit 6-of-6 free throws down the stretch to salt away the victory after struggling for most of the night at the foul line.
“It was a nice way to close out the win,” Gibson said.
Evanson and Kellie Goza both added six points for Jefferson. Fontana, who hit two three-pointers for Jackson County, finished with eight.