LYONS — The groundwork has now been laid by Mark Sharpley, his staff and his team.
Saturday’s 74-38 blowout win in Lyons capped the non-league slate for the Associated Press media poll’s 3A No. 6 Jaguars, who will now embark on their daunting Metropolitan League schedule, starting Friday night at No. 2 Faith Christian.
“Now it starts,” Sharpley said.
Jefferson Academy (10-1), playing with its full roster for the first time all season — including 6-foot-9 junior Shane Davis — was eager to run, run and run some more.
With an emphasis on playing “downhill,” the Jaguars broke open a tight game in the second quarter with an up-tempo offense that allowed senior Joe Raff to show off his court vision and his uncanny ability to find the open man with some nifty no-look passes.
Up 18-17, Raff and his Jaguars running mates had back-to-back possessions that ended up with highlight reel plays. On the first, Raff hit Andrew Ullman under the basket for and easy layup. Then, after forcing a Lions turnover, Raff rifled a pass to a streaking Jake Barlow, who finished with the right hand.
It was the start of a 16-2 run to close out the quarter and the other big catalyst in the run was junior Nate Rodriguez off the bench. He scored seven of his nine points during that outburst and it didn’t go unnoticed by his coach.
“He played very well against Northridge (on Thursday) night as well,” Sharpley said. “He played some good stints and his some big shots.”
Said Rodriguez: “Every second you get on the court you just have to go out there and do what you can to help your team win. Whether it’s making open shots, playing good defense or diving for loose balls, every second counts.”
Jefferson Academy, which had 12 players score on Saturday, put the Lions away coming out of the locker rooms by following up their run to end the second quarter with another 16-0 run to start the third.
Raff, who missed the Thursday game against Northridge after receiving two technicals against The Academy, scored 12 in the first quarter and finished with a game-high 20 points.
Ullman added 15 and both Rodriguez and Jake Barlow had nine points.
“Our league is so tough that we have to be creative in how we attack,” Sharpley said. “Our conference is one that is so basketball good and athletic good that we just have to keep finding ways to be in the mix.”
Lyons (4-4) stayed close early, looking for and finding openings for senior Zach Christiansen. He scored seven of his 16 points in the first quarter, but became the focal point of the Jaguars’ defense during their big runs.
“His effort was par for the course,” Lyons coach Andrew Smith said. “He’s one of those players that even in the next five of six years, you’re are not going to see another one if you ever do.
“He is finally starting to gel with the rest of the team.”
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Jefferson Academy 74, Lyons 38
At Lyons HS
JEFFERSON ACADEMY (10-1)
Taylor Teets 1 2-2 5, Andrew Ullman 7 1-1 15, Joe Rodriguez 1 0-0 2, Justin Barlow 1 2-2 4, Jake Barlow 3 3-4 9, Nate Rodriguez 4 0-0 9, Trever Ballard 1 0-0 2, Joe Raff 7 2-2 20, Dalton Hagen 0 0-0 0, John Mahoney 1 0-0 2, Shane Davis 1 0-1 2, Dylan Bendure 1 0-1 2, Keaton Grant 0 0-0 0, Tyler Thimsen 1 0-0 2, Vince Abeyta 0 0-0 0. Totals 29 10-13 74.
Mitchell Simms 0 2-3 2, Bridger Keane 1 2-3 5, Dawson Kelly 1 0-0 3, Zach Christiansen 7 2-3 16, Justin Gorman 1 2-2 4, Owen George 0 1-2 1, Shea Gillman 1 0-0 2, Brian Dillon 0 0-0 0, Lars Basey 2 1-3 5. Totals 13 10-16 38.
Score by quarters:
Jefferson Academy 16 18 25 15 — 74
Lyons 13 6 7 12 — 38
3-point field goals — Jefferson Academy (6): Raff 4, Teets, N. Rodriguez; Lyons (2): Keane, Kelly. Total fouls — Jefferson Academy 19; Lyons 13.