Written by Corbett Smith
Triple A Academy earns spot in Class A Division I boys basketball final behind Jeremiah Jefferson's 37-point effort
AUSTIN — When Triple A Academy’s leading scorer, King McClure, was lost for the playoffs 17 days ago after dislocating his kneecap, junior Jeremiah Jefferson knew what he had to do.
“Someone had to step up,” Jefferson said. “And all eyes kind of went on me.”
The younger brother of Connecticut freshman women’s basketball player Moriah Jefferson, he looked comfortable under the bright lights of Texas’ Erwin Center.
In the first meeting of charter schools at the state tournament, Jefferson scored 37 points in the Class A Division I semifinal, leading Triple A to a 90-50 win over El Paso Harmony.
“As long as he’s aggressive, and his shot’s falling, it’s going to be really tough for the opposing team,” coach Tim Singleton said.
Jefferson and junior forward Gary Breaux were instrumental in helping Triple A shake off a slow start in its inaugural trip to state.
Nearly halfway through the first quarter, Triple A hadn’t made a shot, while guards Bryan Urrutia, Joshua Jones and Ivan Gutierrez put Harmony up by 11 points. At that point, Breaux and Jefferson combined for eight points in a 90-second span, and Triple A left the first quarter with a 19-17 lead.
“They kind of caught us off guard, because we didn’t know that our big guys would have to run out there on the little guys to contest the 3-pointers,” Singleton said. “We kind of gave them some opportunities, and they took advantage of it.”
Much of the focus heading into the game against Harmony (26-4) was on its 7-3 freshman, Alfredo Rodriguez.
And while Harmony’s trio of guards demanded attention offensively, Rodriguez — the only player on his team above 6-0 — altered nearly each layup and short jumper in the first quarter.
Triple A guard Tyler Singleton said that after he missed his first shot, challenged by Rodriguez, “I thought it would be like that the whole game.”
Triple A kept attacking the rim and fighting for rebounds. By game’s end, its efforts netted 30 more shot attempts, 31 more rebounds, 50 points in the paint and 29 second-chance points.
“I think the biggest difference is that we were commanding the boards in the first quarter,” Harmony coach Mike Gonzales said, “vs. the second and third quarters. You could see their size take a toll on us.”
Triple A’s pressure defense also paid dividends, forcing 26 turnovers.
By game’s end, the only question was whether Jefferson, who made 15 of 31 shots, would get the Class A state tournament scoring record. Singleton took him out of the game with two minutes to go, six points short of the record, shared by three players. Jefferson was unaware that he was close to the mark.
“Aw, man,” Jefferson said after he was told the record. “I could have got that.”
For Triple A, it’s on to the state final. Triple A (27-5) will face last year’s runner-up, Mumford (39-0), in the final at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
Follow Corbett Smith on Twitter at @corbettsmithDMN