Cougars step up to beat rival Patriots for sectional crown
Games between the Jefferson and Washington boys basketball teams have been a fight to the finish all season.
But when it came down to winning a sectional title, the Cougars stepped up.
Jefferson picked up a 62-54 win Friday night to win the Class AAA, Region II, Section 2 crown and stay alive in the postseason.
“Anytime you say championship, it’s great to get a win. I know it’s been a long season, and they just worked hard. To come in herewe only won three road games all year,” Jefferson coach Richard Lewis said. “And the way we won, too, we were up double digits pretty much the whole game. It shows a lot about how they worked and overcame a lot of adversity this year. I’m just proud of them because the word ‘championship’ means a lot.
“They can remember this the rest of their live. No matter what anyone says, they’ve still got that plaque on the wall at Jefferson High School.”
Washington jumped out to an early 7-2 lead, getting five of those points from Mikel McDaniel.
However, the Cougars answered with eight straight points to take a lead with less than three minutes left in the first quarter.
A 3-pointer from Taylor Tennant helped stretch the Cougar lead to 13-8, and a bucket by Scooter Gaskins sealed the quarter with Jefferson ahead by five.
The teams traded baskets through the second quarter as Jefferson led 28-24 at the break.
A 3-pointer by Washington’s Craig Link pulled the Patriots within six early in the quarter, but Gaskins added five points to push the lead back to nine.
Damien Berry sank a 3-pointer, and a basket by Hunter Coats capped the half, bringing the Patriots within four.
A 10-0 run to start the third quarter helped Jefferson regain control of the game. Gaskins split a pair of foul shots before Alex Tennant scored all seven of his points. Will Fields capped the run with a putback.
“Jordan (Dragon) played well, Scooter (did too),” Lewis said. “Mason Gray came off the bench. Everybody played well. They stood out a little bit, Jordan and Scooter going to the basket.”
Dragon led the Cougars with 13 points, and Gaskins added 11.
Scoring went back and forth through the remainder of the quarter as Washington got nine points from Coates, who scored a game-high 15.
Seven straight points from Washington form Braden Pitts, McDaniel and Berry got the Patriots within six, but an 8-for-10 effort by the Cougars from the foul line helped seal the game.
“I think our pressure really dictated the game. That was our goal to come out and just pressure up and see what happens,” Lewis said.
“I think all year we hadn’t really put together a solid string of turnovers and points, so our goal was just to come out and pressure them and see how long they could take it. That pretty much worked for us.
“Our pressure, our timely traps, our rebounds were pretty good. We just created a lot of turnovers, and they never really got comfortable with our pressure. Even when they made a run and cut it to like six or seven, we ran it back up to 14. Mixing our pressure up, at the end we went zone and figured they were going to drive the basket. We were in the bonus, so we didn’t want to give them fouls so that kind of stymied a little bit. It worked for us.”