TWO NEW girls’ basketball banners will hang from the rafters of Jefferson’s gym next year, allowing Lady Dragon fans to reminisce on a special season for years to come.
Jefferson bowed out of the state tournament last Wednesday (Feb. 26) with a loss to Wesleyan, wrapping up a season in which it won its first region title since 1987 and made its first Elite Eight run since 2006. Coach Jason Gibson said both accomplishments will be commemorated.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our girls,” he said. “I’m not at all disappointed in where this team went this year.”
In the loss to Wesleyan — which has advanced to Thursday’s Class AA finals — Jefferson trailed by 11 at halftime and the game gradually slipped way in the second half.
“They don’t need to be disappointed with what happened,” Gibson said. “We had a great season.”
The loss ended the careers of seniors Kellie Goza, Dralynn Vaughn, Ashley Boyd and Jordan Phillips — a group which Gibson gave much credit for the team’s deep tournament run.
“I’m going to miss all four of those young ladies,” Gibson said. “They’ve done a tremendous job this year leading our team and being a part of something special. I’m really proud for them, but at the same time, I’m really going to miss them.”
The good news for Jefferson is that plenty of players remain on the roster for next year. Players like point guard Abbie Franklin and center Hope Forrester were only freshmen this year.
“Looking forward to next year, we had some big freshmen playing some big minutes in the state tournament,” Gibson said. “I’m just super proud of where they’ve come. We’ve got a lot coming back next year as well. Hopefully we can develop some skills even further into the off season and continue to work hard and come out here next year ready to have another great season.”
Duplicating this year’s success will certainly have its challenges, as Jefferson will move to Class AAA next year. But Gibson said he’s excited about where the program is.
“We’re moving to Class AAA next year, so obviously that’s going to bring a new and different challenge, so hopefully we’ll be ready to step up and meet whatever challenge lies ahead,” he said.