As the high school basketball season heads into a critical stretch of region games, Dawson County’s varsity boys team is seeking to learn as much as they can from their recent defeats.
Coming off a strong display against Region 7-3A leaders White County, the Tigers had a difficult time establishing any offensive momentum in their 61-38 loss at Wesleyan on Tuesday, Jan. 17.
The Tigers followed that up with one of their strongest games all season at West Hall on Friday, Jan. 20, leading for most of the game before ultimately falling 66-62.
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Against the Spartans, Trey Harvey was aggressive from inside early on, with him and Ethan Parker helping the Tigers build a 21-8 lead.
The opening quarter saw some of the most efficient possessions by Dawson all season, with the visitors quickly finding gaps in the West Hall defense and creating chances both inside and from distance.
With additional help from Caden Reed and Joshua Priest, the Tigers maintained a 30-20 halftime lead before the home side began to gradually chip away at their deficit.
The third quarter proved to be decisive, as the Tigers could not expand or sustain their lead, resulting in just a 42-41 Dawson lead heading into the fourth quarter.
As both teams went back-and-forth in the final eight minutes of the game, the Tigers were just a couple of missed opportunities away from putting themselves in a winning position.
“It was a disappointing loss, but [I was] very pleased with how hard we played and how we competed,” head coach Todd Cottrell said. “A couple plays here or there and it’s a different game. It’s a great experience for us, and how we respond to it moving forward is going to be huge.”
Wesleyan, who had given up an average of just 43 points per game against region foes, used their size advantage to stifle Dawson early — with the Tigers scoring just 11 first-half points.
“It was a tough first half,” head coach Todd Cottrell said. “We did not defend very well, did not shoot very well and were not very aggressive — we only got one 50/50 ball while Wesleyan got six and they dominated the paint.”
For Dawson, their offensive performance in the second half was a complete contrast from the first — with Trey Harvey and Caden Reed stepping up the aggression and willing to put their bodies to the floor against the bigger Wolves players.
While the Tigers defense also forced more mistakes out of Wesleyan in the second half, the Wolves managed to maintain the size of their lead for the remainder of the game.
“We played a little better defensively in the second half, which led to some easier baskets,” Cottrell said. “When we play hard and compete, we have a chance. When we do not do both of those things, we struggle.”
The Tigers will now be heading into an important part of the regular season, with a home game against Gilmer this Tuesday and a visit to Pickens on Thursday, Jan. 26.
Next week, Dawson will host Lumpkin County on Friday, Feb. 3.