RABBITTOWN — An eight-day layoff and facing the No. 4 team in Class 4A was a daunting task to begin with for the East Hall boys.
Add in a cold shooting start and a Jefferson offense that features as many scorers as the number of chairs on the bench, and, well...
A 71-63 Dragons’ win at Valhalla wasn’t as bad as it looked like it was going to be early.
Jefferson (15-1, 5-0 Region 8-4A) came out firing, hitting its first four 3-pointers, including two by JT Fulkrod, and ran out to a 12-3 lead in the first five minutes. Fulkrod came into the game hitting on 42 percent of his treys on the season.
East Hall actually tied the game at 3-3 on a Clete Cooper trey, but following a 9-0 explosion by the Dragons, the Vikings (13-3, 2-2 Region 8-4A) never got closer than five the rest of the way.
“Jefferson, those guys can all shoot it,” East Hall coach Tommy Yancey said. “We did not do a good job of rotating early in the game. It’s on me for not having the guys better prepared to start the game. You can’t let those guys get open looks. It was a rough first half.”
The Vikings scratched back with a 5-0 run, capped by a three-point play from Christian Torres to trail 12-8. Jefferson, however, took a 17-10 lead into the second quarter.
East Hall got within five points on the three occasions, the last at 23-18 on a basket by John Salyers. The Dragons responded with a 9-0 run as Kaiden Bailey converted a pair of inside baskets while Drew Williamson drained a long 3-pointer. Jefferson took a 34-20 lead into the break on a Jaden Butts stick-back basket with 3 seconds left in the half.
“JT continued to shoot the ball well, and Kaiden is just a tough matchup for anyone,” Jefferson coach Kevin Morris said. “It’s his passing, though, that really drives our offense. He always finds the right guy to get the open look.”
East Hall, playing for the first time since winning the Lanierland Tournament on Dec. 30, was cold on the offensive end hitting 1-of-8 from 3-points range while the Dragons went 5-of-8 on 3-pointers in the first half.
But as bad as the first half appeared for East Hall, the Vikings used an 8-2 run early in the third quarter to pull within 38-30. Jefferson maintained that lead until Cooper got the Vikings within 52-46 to open the fourth quarter, and Luke Barton hit a 3-pointer to get it to 55-49 with 5:59 left in the game.
“We played well in the second half,” Yancey said. “We made a run but then they made one. The guys never quit, so I was proud of that.”
The Dragons responded with a 16-8 run, capped by a 3-pointer and two free throws from Dalen Gales for a 71-57 lead with just 56 seconds left to put the game out of reach.
“This was a big win for us right now,” Morris said. “We're one game from finishing the first half of the region schedule undefeated. I feel pretty good about how we’re playing right now.”
East Hall closed out the game with 3-pointers from Zach Kinsey and Cooper for the final score.
The win for Jefferson extended its current win streak to eight straight. The loss snapped East Hall’s seven-game win streak.
Torres finished with 17 points, 9 in the third-quarter run, to lead East Hall. Cooper had 16 and C.J. Agborsangaya added 10 before fouling out late for the Vikings.
Gales led five Jefferson players in double-figures with 15 points, 12 coming in the second half. Bailey finished with 12 points and Riley Holliman and Fulkrod each had 11 points while Butts added 10 for the Dragons.
East Hall will try to get another win streak going, traveling to North Oconee on Tuesday in another Region 8-4A battle. Jefferson is off until playing host to North Oconee next Friday.
JEFFERSON GIRLS 57,
EAST HALL 35
The Class 4A third-ranked Lady Dragons defense was too tough for the Lady Vikings in a key Region 8-4A matchup for both teams.
Jefferson (14-2, 4-1 Region 8-4A) held East Hall (8-7, 1-3 Region 8-4A) to just 2-of-21 shooting in the first half while building a 14-2 lead after the first quarter and a 28-6 advantage by halftime.
The Lady Vikings found their offense in the second half playing to a draw. They got within 46-30 midway through the fourth quarter, highlighted by a pair of Alexis Burce 3-pointers.
But Jefferson’s Ellie Kinlaw answered with a pair of treys to ignite an 11-0 run as the Lady Dragons retook control.
Kinlaw finished with a game-high 21 points, including five-pointers, to pace Jefferson. Natalia Bolden had 11 points and Hailey Triaga added 8 for the Lady Dragons.
Burce led East Hall with 11 points. Audrey Griffin had 8 for the Lady Vikings.