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Gators chomp down on Thomas Jefferson

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    Great defense and a high-octane transition offense helped Bulloch Academy to a 31-point victory over Thomas Jefferson Academy Monday night.
    Senior forward James Conner scored a career-high 16 points while junior forward Jordan Walker added 12 and senior forward Wil Hall chipped in 10 in the lopsided 61-30 win.        
    In the earlier girls’ game, the Lady Gators blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and were nipped 43-40 by the Lady Jags.
    In the finale, Bulloch (4-8) took a slim 10-8 lead after the first eight minutes. Who knows what BA head coach Chandler Dennard said to his guys during the one-minute intermission between quarters? Whatever it was, the Gators went on a rampage as they scored 17 unanswered points to take a 27-8 lead by the 2:48 mark.
    “We just came out flat in the first quarter and didn’t get after it like we should,” said Dennard. “In the second, we picked up the intensity and played like we are capable of playing. The guys got after it.”
    The Bulloch boys looked like world-beaters with great defense and a tight press which offered up TJA turnovers and easy baskets. In the lane, the Gators manhandled the Jaguars, boxing them out at will and out-rebounding the visitors by a wide margin.
    “It (the lead) was all generated by our defense,” said Dennard. “We did have a size advantage and we exploited it. The guards (sophomore Dartavious Brown and junior Will Powell) did a great job of really moving the ball around and pushing it the interior, allowing our forward to get the high-percentage layups.”
    During the stretch, both Conner and Walker had six points each as Bulloch took a 31-11 halftime lead. Dennard substituted freely throughout the second half, giving his bench players quality time on the court.
    “We’ve got a long way to go, and we’ll have to depend on our bench to help us get there,” said Dennard.
    Other scorers for the Gators were Powell with six, freshman Paul Son with six and Brown with four. Britt Cooper led Thomas Jefferson (3-7) with seven points.
    In the opener, the diminutive Lady Gators (6-8) had to battle Thomas Jefferson’s big duo of Emily Hadden and Mary Beth Miller. And Bulloch junior Kate Martin, sophomore Kinsley Mallard and freshman Heaven Hinton won the battle through three and a half quarters.
    Bulloch took a 12-8 lead at the end of the opening period and a 23-19 halftime lead. Martin, who had a career-high 10 points, netted six in the second quarter to lead the charge.
    Senior guard Kacie Lanier, who led Bulloch with 12 points, nailed a three-pointer with 6:17 left in the fourth quarter to give the Lady Gators a seemingly insurmountable 37-27 advantage. But the Lady Jags (5-6) mounted an incredible comeback, led by freshman guard Morgan Bridges.
    Bridges scored 10 of her game-high 18 points in the final minutes, including a steal and a coast-to-coast layup with 1:10 remaining to put TJA up 39-38. BA’s Kaylee Lanier pumped in a basket with 45.2 left to regain a Gator lead. But Hadden, who had 12 points on the night, muscled in a put-back with 34.3 left to put the Lady Jags back on top 41-40. Bridges then canned both ends of a one-and-one situation with 7.2 seconds left to close the door on Bulloch.
    In afternoon B-team action, Scott Cram’s Lady Gators blasted Thomas Jefferson 41-16. Ten of BA’s 11 players scored in the contest. Mary Catherine Spigener led the BA girls (4-1-1) with nine points while Rachel Gilbert added seven. Anna Brett led TJA with 10.
    In the boys’ contest, Taylor Burke netted 15 points to lead Bulloch (6-1) to a 38-27 victory. Derrick Mathis had 14 for Thomas Jefferson.
    The Bulloch varsity and B-teams are back in action today, hosting Region 2-AA foe Edmund Burke. The first sub-varsity contest begins at 4 p.m. while the key girls’ varsity match begins at 6:30 p.m.
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