JEFFERSON’S nine-member senior class made a promise after last year’s first-round exit from the state tournament.
The Dragon seniors vowed to repeat as region champions again — which they did — but that’s not where the group’s ambitions stopped.
“They also made the pledge that we’re going to do something in the state tournament,” Jefferson coach DuBose said.
True to their word, the Dragons pushed all the way to the Elite Eight before being ousted by state power Greater Atlanta Christian in a 60-47 loss Thursday at home.
DuBose called praised his large group of seniors.
“It’s the biggest senior class I’ve ever had,” DuBose said. “I always said I would never keep more than seven seniors just because I think you have to rebuild the whole team (if you do). But these were such a special group of kids.”
Jefferson knew going into the postseason that winning Region 8-AA again — the program’s 10th title in 14 years — would mean that in all likelihood it would have to face GAC in the quarterfinals. Jefferson stayed within striking distance of the nationally-ranked Spartans for most of the first two quarters before going cold from the floor in the second half.
“We knew this was coming, but we said all along, we’d rather play them here than on a neutral floor somewhere … If we had a chance, it was going to be here,” DuBose said.
Now Jefferson bids farewell to a senior class that included Tay Taylor, Satchel Turpin, Conner McCollough, Isaiah Blake, Carter Cofer, Nate Ferrell, Willie Taylor, Keyshawn Sims and James Howard. Out of that mix, the Dragons lose their two leading scorers, two leading rebounders and several key defenders.
“And all our size,” DuBose said. “We really don’t have any post players coming back. We’ve got some younger kids that got some valuable experience this year, but they’re all guards.”
Making matters tougher is Jefferson’s leap to Class AAA and a new region that will include some familiar foes.
“It will be tough, but it’s some of the same teams we’ve been in there with before — Elbert (County) and Hart (County) and people like that — Jackson County and East Jackson,” DuBose said. “We’ll just work hard in the offseason and see what we come up with.”
While Jefferson loses several of its key players, it does not lose the expectation to win. That consistency is a great motivator, according to DuBose.
“I love our kids,” he said. “They have a great attitude. We’ve won 10 region championships in the last 14 years, and I don’t know how many teams have done that. So even our JV guys feel like, ‘OK, when it’s our turn, we’ve got to do the same thing.’”