Jackets clinch state tourney spot
Lee County’s boys basketball squad celebrated its Senior Night, a senior night for eight of the 14 varsity Yellow Jackets, with its easiest Tri-Nine win of the season, a 61-34 rout over Athens Drive Tuesday night.
The victory, combined with other Tri-Nine results Tuesday night, clinched fourth place for Lee County and with it a spot into the NCHSAA 4A State Tournament a season after the Jackets (12-11, 9-6) went 5-19 overall and 3-13 in the Tri-Nine.
Senior Dante Graham led the Jackets with 18 points and senior Jason Payne added 13 points, including two three-pointers early in the second half which took the Jackets out to a double-digit lead for good.
Lee County entered the night a half-game ahead of Panther Creek and one game ahead of Holly Springs for fourth place.
A 2-0 Jaguar lead was the first and only lead of the night for Athens Drive. Lee County rolled off the next 12 points.
Graham, running the point, was the catalyst for the Jackets in the opening half. Even when the Jaguars were set in their zone defense, Graham drove down the lane multiple times, either finishing with a hoop or creating something for a teammate. Payne had two jumpers for five points in the half. Trevon Watson added two fast-break buckets toward the end of the half and Lee County led 24-15 at halftime.
Payne drained a pair of triples to open Lee County’s scoring right away, for a 30-17 Lee County lead, early in the third period.
The Jackets led 39-24 through three periods and turned the game into a blowout with a 16-2 run in the first four minutes of the fourth period. Hunter Jackson, Dewaun McEachin and Watson added three-pointers to Payne’s shooting as the Jackets rolled to a big lead.
Graham finished with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists. Watson had 11 points and four assists. Jackson and McEachin added seven points each.
KaShawn Middleton led the Jaguars (3-19, 3-12) with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Lee County plays its regular-season finale Friday night at Holly Springs at 7 p.m.