The Jefferson boys basketball team is preparing for its move to Class AAA next year with a simple strategy: Play Class AAA teams now.
So far, so good. The Dragons, who haven’t yet played anyone in their own classification this year, continued to play solid basketball through a tough early-season schedule with a 73-57 win over West Hall on Tuesday in Oakwood.
Jefferson (3-1), which won a Region 8-AA title last year, established a comfortable lead early in the contest and went on to post its largest scoring total of the season. Three players ended up in double figures.
“We have a lot of seniors this year that have played together for a while,” Dragons coach Bolling DuBose said. “So we were hoping that would help us get off to a good start and have a good team this year.”
They’re right on schedule so far. The Dragons, who are slated to play in Region 8-AAA for 2014-2016, have picked up wins over two Class AAA teams and also took down Class AAAAAA’s Parkview. Their lone loss was to St. Pius X, one of Class AAA’s powerhouses, in the championship game of Jefferson’s tip-off tournament Saturday.
“We try to play a lot of bigger schools in our non-region games, because I think that just makes you better,” DuBose said. “We haven’t played anybody our size yet.”
That goes for the players’ size as well. Jefferson, whose tallest player is 6-foot-4, had to deal with a menacing post presence in West Hall (2-2) center Hunter Atkinson. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound football standout notched a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds, but the Dragons didn’t let his imposing size help get the Spartans in front.
It also helped that Jefferson faced a 6-foot-10 center against St. Pius X on Saturday, so DuBose knew his players were ready to contain Atkinson.
“We’re going to see a lot of big guys, so you have to learn to play against them,” DuBose said. “I can’t make our guys grow. But I think our guys did a good job of keeping him down at the baseline and kind of trapping him and keeping him from getting to the basket.”
The Dragons got a double-double of their own from Satchel Turpin, who scored 16 points and pulled down 15 boards of his own. Connor McCullough added 15 points and Hunter Thompson chipped in 12.
It was Jefferson’s first game with its full roster after missing three football players, including two starters, for its first three games. The Dragons’ football team wrapped up their season with a loss to Lamar County in the state quarterfinals Friday.
“Our football players have been at practice for one day, (Monday),” DuBose said. “All three of them are perimeter guys, but we’re a perimeter oriented team because we don’t have a lot of big guys. Once they all get back, we have 10-11 guys we feel like we can go to without any drop-off.”
Jefferson jumped out to a 22-13 lead through one quarter and continued to pull away throughout the second for a 40-27 halftime advantage.
The Dragons outscored West Hall 15-12 in the third, and cruised the rest of the way.
Mason Gaines led the Spartans with 11 points, including three 3-pointers in the first half. Tyquan Statham added 10 points and seven rebounds.
Jefferson faces another Class AAA opponent, Franklin County, at 8:30 p.m. Friday. West Hall visits Westminster at 7 p.m. Friday.
JEFFERSON GIRLS 46. WEST HALL 35: Ashley Boyd scored 15 points and came down with five rebounds as the Lady Dragons held off a fourth-quarter rally by the Lady Spartans on Tuesday.
West Hall turned a 23-13 halftime deficit into a one-point game in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, but a 12-2 Jefferson (5-1) run put the Lady Dragons back ahead by 11, and they held on until the final buzzer.
Kellie Goza recorded six points and seven rebounds for Jefferson.
West Hall (3-1) was led by Jensen Hall’s 11 points, including three 3-pointers in the first quarter that helped the Lady Spartans take an early 12-11 lead before Jefferson scored 12 unanswered points to open the second.
Meghan Kelling scored 10, and Maia Caldwell-Booker added nine points and six rebounds.
Jefferson hosts Franklin County at 7 p.m. Friday. West Hall visits Westminster at 5:30 p.m. Friday.