CLINTON, Tenn. | It would’ve been harder to have scripted it any better.
On a night when Scott High traveled to Anderson County to face its former coach, Jordan Jeffers, it was a Jeffers who came through in a huge way to lead the Highlanders to a 60-55 win.
Scott Jeffers, the Highlanders’ senior point guard, and Jordan Jeffers are cousins. Their fathers are brothers. And in Friday’s first meeting between Scott and the Jordan Jeffers-coached Anderson County team, Scott Jeffers had perhaps the best game of his career. He didn’t score from the field, but he didn’t need to. He shot 17 of 19 — 90% — from the free throw line to lead all scorers. He also had a team-high three steals, and was named the First National Bank Player of the Game.
If there wasn’t already a spotlight on the game — Jordan Jeffers coached the Highlanders to one of the best multiple-season runs in school history before leaving in the spring to take the job at Anderson County — the Mavericks’ P.A. announcer cast it during the opening lineups, announcing that the home team was coached “by Scott County’s own Jordan Jeffers.”
Still, it wasn’t easy. The Mavericks nearly battled all the way back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter.
Down by as much as 12 points in the final period, AC slowly whittled away at the lead, then mounted a furious defensive rally late, forcing the Highlanders into several turnovers as they got as close as four points. Cole Russell helped the cause with a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight of his team-high 13 points in the fourth quarter.
But, in the end, Jeffers was steady at the free throw line. He was 10 of 11 from the line in the final period.
Scott High — a team that is gradually taking on the personality of its head coach, according to Rusty Yaden, who demands intensity and aggressiveness from his players — feels like a team that could be dangerous if it all clicks on the same night.
Todd, a senior post turned wing-man, has proven himself the team leader. In a narrow loss to Kingston earlier in the week, senior post Kayleb Woodward was the hero, with 18 points and 17 rebounds. Limited by foul trouble throughout Friday’s game, Woodward had only six points and eight rebounds. But it was Jeffers who put the team on his back against the Mavericks, with the 17 points, and a high intensity on the defensive end.
Meanwhile, freshman Isaiah Washam came off the bench to hit three big 3-point shots in the first half, and junior Toby Garrett tied Woodward for top rebounding honors, with eight.
For Anderson County, the strategy was clearly to try to rattle Jeffers. Yaden has said repeatedly that Jeffers isn’t a true point guard, but is playing the position out of necessity. Jeffers was played aggressively by the Mavs’ defenders Friday, which resulted in the multiple fouls and trips to the free throw line.
Scott High continues to improve against pressing defenses, which teams are more apt to deploy against the Highlanders due to their lack of a true point guard. But there are lapses, such as the third quarter span that allowed Kingston to escape with a win on Tuesday, and the fourth quarter span that nearly allowed AC to come back on Friday.
Yaden said after the game that handling the pressure remains a work in progress for his team, which snapped a four-game losing streak with the win on Friday.
SCOTT (60): Jeffers 17, Todd 13, Garrett 9, Washam 9, Woodward 6, Strunk 4, Babb 2.
ANDERSON CO. (55): C. Russell 13, Dooley 9, West 8, Dake 8, T. Russell 6, Cole 3, Strickland 2, Craig 1.