Jefferson boys fall to no. 1 GAC; coaches strategizing for next year’s overhaul
JEFFERSON'S recipe for an upset of no. 1-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian included getting off to a fast start and having multiple scoring options.
The Dragons (20-10) trailed 25-4 after a quarter and struggled the rest of the way in a 72-42 road loss to the Spartans Wednesday in the Class AA boys’ Sweet 16. Click here for pictures.
“We kind of took ourselves out of it right off the bat,” coach Bolling DuBose said.
Greater Atlanta Christian (25-5) took away Jefferson’s top offensive threat, senior Austin Thompson, and suffocated all other options. Thompson, who was averaging 26.5 points per game in the postseason, finished with 12 points in his final game for Jefferson while no other Dragons reached double figures.
Meanwhile, GAC looked very much like a team contending for a third-consecutive state title.
The Spartans, hosting this game at their spacious, state-of-the-art Long Forum, ran out to a 9-0 lead and went ahead 15-2 off a bucket from Collin Swinton, forcing DuBose to burn his second time out just 3:24 into the game.
A Cole Hobbs’ three-pointer pushed GAC’s lead to 25-4 at the end of the quarter. Delano Spencer then opened the second quarter with a trey to put Jefferson in a 24-point hole. Spencer finished with 17 first-half points.
Jefferson’s game plan went out the window facing such a large deficit so early.
“We were never able to do what we wanted to do,” DuBose said.
Jefferson never got closer than 19 points in the second half. The Spartans pushed their lead to over 30 with a 13-2 fourth-quarter run highlighted by a one-hand jam from Spencer off a fast break.
The 30-point loss was Jefferson’s second-most lopsided defeat of the year.
“This is one of those teams that if we played them 10 times, we might win one maybe,” DuBose said. “But you have to play really, really well to do it.”
While Jefferson was able to contain GAC’s big post players, the Spartans’ backcourt racked up.
Spencer finished with 21 points to lead a trio of GAC scorers in double figures. Hobbs, the team’s long-range specialist, added 19 points. Swinton had 13.
“We did a very poor job on the perimeter (players),” DuBose said.
Andre Daniel finished with nine points in his final game as a Dragon. Only one other Jefferson player — Jeshua Kidd, who had four points — hit more than one shot from the floor the entire night. DuBose pointed out that his players were outsized at most positions.
“Their length had a lot to do with us shooting the ball so poorly,” DuBose said.
While he was disappointed with how the game unfolded, DuBose said there was no shame in having the season end at the hands of the two-time defending champions.
“We got beat by a great team,” DuBose said. “They may win another state tournament.”
The coach said his team had a “great year,” rebounding from a 6-6 start to win 14 of its last 18 games and finish as runners-up in Region 8-AA. DuBose — who praised the leadership of his five seniors — pointed in particular to a come-from-behind win over Elbert County Jan. 10.
“I really thought that kind of turned the season around,” he said.
The resurgence led to Jefferson’s third 20-win season in the last four years.
“Anytime you win 20 games in a high school season, you’ve had a great year,” DuBose said.
DuBose hopes this year’s postseason success will inspire what will be largely a new cast next year.
With a strong group of seniors graduating, that leaves Jefferson without five of its top nine players for 2012-2013.
“I say this every year, but our kids expect to win,” DuBose said. “We’re not going to expect anything different next year.”
With the overhaul, Jefferson will lose most of its scoring, experience and size.
Thompson — Jefferson’s leading scorer and all-region shooting guard — will graduate, as will Daniel, an all-region performer who has been Jefferson’s floor general at point guard for the past two seasons. Will Puckett (an all-region player), Andrew Bartek and Dustin Casey, will all be missed in the post.
DuBose said the no. 1 priority during Jefferson’s summer basketball session in May and June is finding a point guard. The veteran coach put a high premium on that position, which he said is “wide-open.”
“I don’t think you can win big and win championships without a good point guard,” he said.
The second priority is developing senior leaders for next year. DuBose praised the senior leadership on this year’s squad and stressed that to those who will be seniors next year.
“I kind of challenged the junior class,” DuBose said. “We’ve got to identify who our senior leaders are going to be.”
That said, DuBose is excited about next year’s group, though pieces of the puzzle are still missing.
“I have all the confidence in the world that we’ve got the kids who can step up and do the job,” DuBose said.
He pointed out that returning players Satchel Turpin, Jeshua Kidd, Jake Franklin and Tyler Patrick all contributed key minutes this season, which should pay off next year.
“Those guys got a lot of playing time in the second half of the season,” DuBose said.
DuBose said he’s already identified 19 to 20 guys who could play on the varsity in 2012-2013. With eight months until official practice begins, any player could emerge during that time, DuBose said.
Though Jefferson will largely be going back to the drawing board, DuBose — who will enter his 37th season at Jefferson next year — has grown to enjoy that part of the process as much as any in his job.
“I have just as much fun or more fun in the summer when I start looking at things and trying to figure out, ‘How are we going to make this work?’ … The games are the icing on the cake,” DuBose said.