THE DRAGON basketball team couldn’t complete the second leg of championship Saturday for Jefferson High School.
The school’s wrestling team won the state title in Gwinnett that evening, but the top-seeded basketball team lost the region championship 84 miles away at Hart County with a 51-43 setback against no. 3 seed Dawson County. Click here for photos.
Austin Thompson scored 22 points to lead the Dragons (19-9), who squandered a 10-point lead.
Jefferson led 36-26 with three minutes left in the third quarter but managed just one basket over the next 10:20 as Dawson County (23-6) stormed back to take the region title.
“I really thought, at that point, we started really forcing a lot of shots,” Jefferson coach Bolling DuBose said. “We made some really poor decisions offensively — took some really bad shots and allowed them to come down and start scoring. Defensively, I think we kind of got back on our heels.”
Tyler Dominy led the Tigers — who’ve now won six straight — with 19 points.
Thompson, coming off 28 and 22-point performances respectively in the first two games of the region tournament, scored 13 in the first half to pace the Dragons. Thompson scored at least 20 points in all three of Jefferson’s region tournament games. His bucket with 1:50 left in the first half gave Jefferson a 23-18 lead and Will Puckett’s score with 50 seconds left gave the Dragons a 25-18 halftime edge.
The first few minutes of the second half looked promising enough for Jefferson.
Tyler Patrick’s basket at the 3:05 mark in the third quarter pushed the lead up to 36-26, but the Dragons went ice cold after that.
“It was kind of like we just quit playing on both ends of the floor in the way we had played up until then, which allowed them to come back and eventually take the lead,” DuBose said.
Dawson County went ahead, 38-37, with a put-back from Bruce Clark with 5:56 left in the game. The Tigers built a six-point lead with less than a minute to go, which forced Jefferson to start fouling. Dawson County hit seven of its last 11 free throws to seal the win.
“I think our kids got a little flustered when they got the lead,” DuBose said. “And the last 10-12 minutes of the game, they just outplayed us.”
With the loss, Jefferson takes the no. 2 seed into the Class AA tournament and will host a first-round game against Saturday against North Murray, according to DuBose.
“I’m really proud of our kids for what they did in the tournament — for working hard and getting to the finals,” DuBose said.
But Jefferson must find a way to regroup from Saturday night’s disappointment.
“Our kids have to bounce back and understand that it’s a whole new tournament,” DuBose said. “We can pout about this one and get beat next weekend and be one-and-done in the state tournament, or we can kind of get over this and start getting ready for the state tournament.”