The Dawson County Tigers are not only meeting the high expectations set for them by varsity basketball fans, they are exceeding them.
With a 14-0 start this season, Dawson earned the No. 1 ranking in Class AAA according to the recent ajc.com Prep Zone poll.
Its the best season start for the team since the 1960s, according to head coach Thad Burgess, was given more validation last week when the team defeated traditional basketball powerhouse East Hall on the road.
A win versus East Hall is always special, Burgess said, and to beat them there, really shows the effort our guys put forth.
Dawson jumped out to a 13-7 lead in the early-going, but the Vikings kept the game close and battled back in the fourth quarter.
Burgess praised the Tigers fans and the way they took their enthusiasm on the road to help the team late in the game.
The 51-43 victory was the second-straight for Dawson over East Hall, as the team was led by senior guard Will Anglin with 15 points.
Senior guard Tyler Dominy dominated the boards, grabbing 15 rebounds, while racking up five blocks.
Junior guard Jonathan Sanderson played the entire game and snagged eight rebounds and dished out six assists.
Camron Chester has really stepped up his game, Burgess said, and has been the big presence inside that we were so badly looking for.
The senior finished with nine points, while Jackson Putnam and Lucas Pain finished with eight points apiece.
Battle of the States
In earlier action, Dawson finished strong at the Battle of the States Tournament to sweep the competition and earn the championship.
The Tigers, who are holding opponents to an average of just 29 points per game, allowed Piedmont (Ala.) to jump on top 33-25 in the opening game of the tournament.
But Dawson responded with a 20-0 run in the second half to grab a 45-35 lead on the way to a 50-44 first-round victory.
Senior guard Gunnar Armstrong led a well-balanced scoring attack with 12 points.
Dominy, who would go on to be voted the Tournament MVP, finished with nine points.
Anglin, who earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team, helped out with six points in the game.
In the semifinals, Dawson faced the Battle of the States Tournament Champion from last year, Hayesville (N.C.).
Dominy had a big game with 19 points as the Tigers began with a better start than their previous game.
After leading 23-16 at the half, Dawson outscored Hayesville 10-3 in the third quarter and held on for the 39-25 victory.
The following night in the finals, Anglin exploded for 26 points as the Tigers began the game with an 18-5 run.
Burgess was happy with the way Dawson disrupted Murphys game plan early on.
The Tigers showed dominance on defense by holding Murphy to single digit scoring in each of the first three quarters and went on to earn a 62-22 victory.
Looking ahead, Burgess recognizes the unusually-talented cluster of teams that make up Region 7-AAA this season, including strong opponents like Buford and East Hall.
There will be difficult times for us with our depth and the talent levels we will be facing, Burgess said. This region is loaded, and will take a lot out of all the teams. It will be fun and challenging.
Next up for the Tigers will be a road game against North Hall (10-1) on Friday night and a home game against West Hall (6-5) on Tuesday.