Jefferson hits triple digits in win over Legacy Christian

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. — The Jefferson High School (W.Va.) boys basketball team hoped to get off to a good start in the opening game of the season, but the Cougars never imagined how good of game it would be for them.

Led by Jalen Smith and Jahlil Jenkins, Jefferson (1-0) walked away with a 103-43 victory over Legacy Christian Academy on Tuesday.

“Definitely helps confidence. Anytime you can score 100 points in your first home game, it definitely gives a lot of confidence,” Jefferson coach Richard Lewis said. “I was hoping we would get up early. That’s what we were looking for the first game. My biggest thing is keeping focused, staying focused and keeping our intensity up. That’s what I was thinking the whole time.”

Lewis thought his team did that pretty well, not taking a large lead for granted.

“We had a couple lapses, but I think overall, they came out and played hard in the second half as well,” Lewis said. “We just gotta keep getting better every day.”

Smith came out hot in the first half, hitting four straight buckets to cap a 12-0 run for Jefferson. Legacy cut its deficit to 10 with a 3-pointer by Vasilis Klasivis and a basket by Daniel James. The Cougars got 3-pointers by Smith, Michael Tennant and Jenkins to take the lead to 23-7, and another basket from behind the arc by Smith closed the first quarter at 31-14.

Smith picked right back up in the second quarter, adding a quick four points. He led the game with 25 points, 21 coming in the first half.

“He shot the ball really well. If he shoots like that — and we’re looking for him to shoot like that and score like that — he’ll be one of the best players in the area and hopefully in the state as well,” Lewis said.

A pair of buckets by Klasivis sandwiched another 3 by Smith to make the score 45-18. Michael Bratton closed out the first half with a basket, extending the Cougars’ lead to 54-21.

Jefferson used the second half to gain some experience for the bench. Lewis hopes to make his team deeper than it is right now.

“It definitely helps because going into the season, we’re not as deep as we would like,” Lewis said. “We can develop those guys early, especially the younger guys like the 11th graders. Hopefully, they can give us some much-needed minutes, especially if we get in foul trouble.

“I think (the younger guys) played well. I think Zach Larue had a good game off the bench. I think the other guys got some experience and played really confident when they got in. I’m glad they got a lot of experience tonight.”

Legacy kicked off the second half with a pair of baskets by Klasivis and Noah Lowe, half of the eight points Jefferson allowed in the third quarter. After four free throws by Legacy, the Cougars went on a 15-0 to end the quarter. Jenkins added five of his 24 points during the run, while Andrew King knocked down four of his six points on back-to-back baskets.

The Saints kept Jefferson from going on a big run in the final quarter, but it didn’t stop the Cougars from adding another 26 points.

Juluan Plaza scored on back-to-back baskets to make the Jefferson lead 86-31. Tyler Stehr scored on a reverse to stretch the lead to 58 points.

The Cougar defense stayed strong the whole game, even in the final minutes. Ryan Popkins grabbed a rebound off his own missed free throw to score on the putback and put Jefferson ahead 100-39. Larue capped the game with a 3-pointer for the Cougars.

“Defensively, I think if we can stop gambling as much and play more position, I think we got a lot more improvement, but I think, overall, we did what we wanted to do on defense as far as execution-wise,” Lewis said. “We gotta keep getting better and not do that many random things and be more disciplined.”

Christian Johnson, Brandon Grafton and Bratton each added eight points for Jefferson. Smith, Johnson and Popkins each grabbed four rebounds. Smith made seven steals, while Jenkins added six.