Jackets have to work for 9-1 mark
A 9-1 record a little more than a month into the basketball season is beautiful for Lee County. There wasn't a lot pretty about how the Yellow Jackets (9-1, 3-0) got win nine Friday night in a 48-39 win over visiting Athens Drive (0-9).
Lee County had to get the job done despite losing 24 turnovers, not having its usual accuracy from behind the three-point arc and letting the Jaguars make for a couple tense moments in the closing minutes.
Lee County took a 7-2 lead but, with Athens Drive frequently making the game hectic, the Jaguars held their former Tri-Nine rivals scoreless for a long stretch and got to a 7-7 score going to the second quarter.
Sparked by Dewaun McEachin's three-point play inside, getting the hoop and foul from an offensive board on a missed free throw, the Yellow Jackets took the lead for good in the second period.
Tre'von Watson and Hunter Jackson drained threes on consecutive trips quickly building the Jacket lead to 19-9. Jackson led Lee County with eight points in the half and the Jackets led 28-16.
Moving out to the double-digit lead before halftime was the best rhythm the Yellow Jackets found. Most of the second half was a scrap to the finish.
The third period was another 7-7 draw. Back-to-back buckets, such as Joe Spikes finishing Kyle Ryan's assist with a lay-in, then John Trannon scoring off an offensive rebound, bringing the Jaguars within 33-23, felt like a serious run.
With Lee County holding a 35-23 lead going to the fourth, the Jaguars held the Jackets scoreless for the first 3:50 of the last quarter.
Even with six Lee County turnovers in that span, the Jacket defense held strong. When Erick Hodge scored, getting Hunter Jackson's pass out of the Jaguar full-court trapping and finishing alone at the hoop, it gave the Jackets a 37-26 lead.
Hodge scored an identical basket to take Lee County's lead to 11 again. The Jaguars got back to within eight points. Watson made a 15-foot baseline jumper, then a fast-break lay-up, to take Lee County's margin to 12.
With a seemingly safe lead, the Yellow Jackets kept playing at the fast pace the Jaguar defense wanted, which allowed the Jaguars to chip back to within 46-39, and have the ball as the clock ran under 30 seconds left.
Keaun Toler's blocked shot on a Jaguar jumper in the paint, leading to a Jacket break and a McEachin lay-up, were the clinching plays.
Trannon, off the Jaguar bench, scored 11 of his team-high 13 points in the second half. Ryan added nine points and five steals. Lee County lost the turnover column 24-17.
Watson led the Jackets with 13 points. Jackson had 11 points, six assists and three blocks. McEachin had eight points and four rebounds. Toler had six points, five boards and three blocks.
Lee County will host the Yellow Jacket Holiday Basketball Classic Dec. 27, 28 and 30, with four boys games and four girls games each day of the tourney. The Yellow Jackets will play Overhills at 8 p.m. Dec. 27. The other first round games are: Cary vs. Carrboro, Western Harnett vs. East Chapel Hill and Union Pines vs. Northwood.