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Dragon comes through as Cougars down Cards

By Staff | Feb 3, 2017

Chronicle photos by David Pennock

Jordan Dragon got not one, but two chances at being the hero during Friday’s Eastern Panhandle Athletic Conference contest against Spring Mills.

In the final 32 seconds, Dragon went to free-throw line twice. On the first try, the Jefferson senior wasn’t able to tie the game after making one of his two free throws.

On his second try, though, just a few seconds later, Dragon redeemed himself by hitting a pair of free throws to give Jefferson a 47-46 lead, which ended up being the margin of victory for the Cougars as they rallied late to beat the Cardinals.

It was the first EPAC win of the season for Jefferson, which also snapped an eight-game losing streak.

“It boosts our confidence a lot because we didn’t have any. We brought it back up this game, so it’s definitely a big confidence booster,” Dragon said.

“It brings your confidence back up to a whole other level,” Jefferson assistant coach Tommy Murray said. “What we’ve been preaching all year long and for the last couple of weeks is that it’s a long season. We started out good, we got mixed up in the middle, but it’s not about that, it’s about how you finish. We want to go down the stretch playing well, and I think this helps.”

Jefferson (6-9) recovered from a poor shooting start to lead 22-16 at halftime, and extended that lead to 25-16 early in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Jeffrey Gaskins. The Cougars remained in the lead until a minute into the fourth quarter when Andre Trought knocked down a 3-pointer to give Spring Mills a 38-36 lead.

That started the Cardinals (8-7) on a 9-2 run, which included baskets by Russell Davis and Mason Caldwell and pushed their lead to 44-38 with 3:22 to go.

That’s when the Cougars’ rally began as they scored the next six points to tie the game at 44 with 1:30 remaining.

It started with a bucket inside by Alex Tennant, who assisted on the next basket by Juluan Plaza. Mason Gray then snuck inside the paint and converted a tough shot for the tie.

“I didn’t want to call a timeout and break the flow of the game. Even though they were up, we still had a good flow of the game,” Murray said. “They played in the flow of the game and got a few defensive stops. Will Fields came in and got some good stops, and Jordan Dragon had some good stops. They all played excellent.”

Spring Mills went back ahead by two with 54 seconds left after Caldwell’s short jumper from straight on, but the Cougars responded with some tough work on the glass to stay alive.

After a missed shot, Gaskins got a rebound and kept the play alive for Dragon, who was fouled as he drove to the basket. He went 1 for 2 from the line to cut Jefferson’s deficit to a point at 46-45.

On his miss, the Cougars again got the rebound, and Dragon again got fouled as he was shooting, putting him at the line with 13.7 seconds left. He made both free throws, giving Jefferson a 47-46, and Spring Mills only got one shot attempt off, which came up well short.

“It was a lot of pressure. When I missed one, I was like, ‘Oh man.’ My heart was pounding,” Dragon said. “It was definitely nervewracking, but I just took a deep breath and took my time.”

Dragon finished with a game-high 12 points, including an all-important 3-for-4 effort from the foul line. Gaskins added nine for the Cougars, who also got seven points from Tennant.

Davis led Spring Mills with 21 points. Zane Cogan and Braxton Roman, who jumpstarted the Cardinals in the second half from 3-point range, each finished with nine points.