RABUN County’s Tanner Plemmons put on an all-out shooting clinic Friday night against Jefferson. That’s fine with the Dragons. They’ll take the win.
Despite giving up 39 points to the prolific shooting guard, Jefferson (19-8) beat Rabun County 81-75 in the Region 8-AA tournament semifinals to advance to the finals Saturday night in Hart County. Click here for photos.
“One of the things we’ve been talking about to the kids all of the second half of the season is we’ve got to be mentally tough, we’ve got to be physically tough,” Jefferson coach Bolling DuBose said. “Tonight they were both.”
Top-seeded Jefferson faces Dawson County (22-6), which upset East Hall, in the finals at 8:30 p.m.
Plemmons hit seven three-pointers and went 10-for-10 from the free throw line as the Rabun County senior accounted for over half of the Wildcats’ points.
Jefferson countered with four players in double figures, led by Austin Thompson who had 22. Andre Daniel added 17, Will Puckett finished with 15 and Satchel Turpin had 10.
DuBose was content for Plemmons to get his points as long as the rest of the Wildcats were held in check.
“I said at practice, ‘I don’t care if Plemmons scores 30 for 40,’” DuBose said. “And I didn’t, as long as we do a great job on the rest of them. The last two times we’ve played them, we’ve gotten so concerned with Plemmons, that we let three or four guys (score) in double figures.”
Rabun County post player Dillon Bleckley did finish with 25 but most of that came in the first half. Chan Patterson, who has burned Jefferson two straight times, scored just two points.
The victory avenged a 70-55 loss to Rabun County Dec. 3.
The Dragons, who trailed 43-41 at the half, took control of the game in the third quarter. After the teams swapped leads, Jefferson used an 8-0 run to take a 52-45 lead and never trailed the rest of the way.
“In the second half, I thought the biggest key was the third quarter,” DuBose said.
The Dragons stepped up in the fourth, too.
Rabun County (20-7) pulled two within one point, 71-70, with 2:43 left in the game after a long jumper from Bleckley. But, as they did all night, the Dragons answered. A bucket from Puckett and two driving scores from Thompson pushed the lead back out to 77-70 with 50 seconds left in the contest.
“The fourth quarter, I thought we did a good job of answering every score they made, (and) playing great defense when we had to,” DuBose said.
Daniel and Turpin both hit two free throws each in the last 33 seconds to seal the Dragon win.
“We’ve hit them (free throws) when we’ve had to,” DuBose said of his team’s performance at the foul line in the region tournament.
The teams traded runs at the game’s outset.
Jefferson attacked the basket early, grabbing a 10-0 lead after a layup from Thompson. Rabun County answered with a 11-0 run, capped by a three from Plemmons for his first points of the night.
They wouldn’t be the last.
Plemmons drained a deep three-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer to give Rabun County a 19-14 lead.
Jefferson — carrying a foul load — battled back to tie the game three times in the second quarter before Plemmons hit a layup with 26 seconds left to give Rabun County a 43-41 halftime lead.
Daniel paced the Dragons with 13 points in the first half.
“These guys just fight and scratch and claw,” DuBose said. “They never quit working. So by halftime, it’s a two-point game. Now it’s anybody’s ball game.”
DuBose said it’s going to take that same effort in the championship game against Dawson County, the no. 3 seed from the North.
The Tigers upset both Elbert County and region favorite East Hall to advance to the finals. DuBose officially warned his team Friday night.
“I told them, if you want to take Dawson for granted, we’re not going to win tomorrow (Saturday) night,” DuBose said. “If we come back with the same kind of effort and intensity that we had tonight, we’ve got a great chance tomorrow (Saturday).”