A third-period shooting performance Saturday pushed Jefferson High School ahead of Commerce High School, 47-42, in the boys’ teams first meeting this season.
The Tigers clawed within one of the Dragons in the final minutes of play but watched its opportunities dwindle after a series of turnovers, which contributed to the loss at home.
For Jefferson the win set up a “big step” forward with the thick of the region schedule starting this week.
“This is a big step in the right direction,” coach Bolling DuBose said.
He called this week “huge” for JHS, which was scheduled to face two region teams in games that will count toward seeding for the region 8-AA tournament in February.
On Friday, the Dragons earned their first region win with a 58-35 win over Oglethorpe County in Lexington. Post-player Tyler Patrick was hurt in that game after hitting a gymnasium wall head first.
He is OK and is expected to return to the team, DuBose said.
That JHS managed something as unforeseen as Patrick’s absence and managed a close win against its rival was a key test, DuBose said.
“This is the first time in my view that the team held on at the end,” he said. “We did a much better job in the last minute and a half (than we have been doing).”
Down by one at the half, Jefferson outscored Commerce 18-9 in the third period, with the Dragons’ Willie Taylor and Jeshua Kidd combining for 16 of those points.
But Commerce rebounded in the fourth, holding the Dragons to just five points until the fouling started with 10 seconds to go.
During that scoreless stretch, Commerce’s Thomas McMillan went to work, drawing foul after foul. He hit 7-for-8 shots at the line and Jonathan Book hit a three- pointer to help the Tigers close the gap to one point with 1:30 left in the game. But two Tiger turnovers ended Commerce’s run after that.
Whereas Jefferson mostly controlled the second half, Commerce guided the first. The Tigers’ coach Rob Brown credited his team’s zone defense with slowing Jefferson’s pace during early on.
“I felt like we played a very complete game but simply didn’t take advantage of opportunities in critical situations in the closing moments of the game,” Brown said. “I felt like we played hard, battled and laid it all on the line but came up a little short.”
McMillan led the Tigers with 16 points and 10 rebounds. All but three of those points came in the second half, when Jefferson switched from a zone to full-court defense.
DuBose said he made that switch in order to add pressure to Commerce overall, a move that likely led to the third period surge.
“That kind of gave them some problems,” DuBose said. “In the third period that forced them into some bad shots… then Willie Taylor got three threes in three minutes, that loosened their defense up, which was a big factor.”
Kidd, who had a game-high 19-points, scored seven points during the third period, as well.
“Those two guys in the third period carried us,” DuBose said. “That was the difference offensively.”
Score by Quarter
Jefferson High School—11|20|38|47
Commerce High School—9|21|30|42
Leading scorers— JHS, Jeshua Kidd 19; Willie Taylor 12; Satchel Turpin 9; CHS, Thomas McMillan 16; Tyree Treadwell 8; Robert Hayes 7; and Jonathan Book, 6.