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BASKETBALL: A pair of clutch shots gave the Lady Tigers a timely win, boys fall after early lead
Abby Samples-Slaton drives toward the basket during the game against Flowery branch. She would make two important shots late in the game to help the Lady Tigers win. - photo by Rio White

With just over two minutes remaining in the Dawson County girls basketball game against Flowery Branch on Monday, Dec. 19, the Lady Tigers needed a spark to secure a seventh victory of the season. 

Having given up a 12-point halftime lead, Dawson briefly trailed before regaining a 1-point lead late in the fourth quarter. 

Enter Abby Samples-Slaton, the team’s leading scorer this season whose shooting touch has often been called upon when the team needed it most.

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With the entire team’s sense of urgency at its peak, Samples-Slaton criss-crossed the front court until she found space, received the ball, and took an instinctual three-point shot to put the Lady Tigers up 52-48.

Just over a minute later, she was able to get a more open look and made what would ultimately be the decisive shot — also from three-point range.

A pair of Kindra Coker free-throws later, the Lady Tigers had completed one of its most clutch wins all season — a 57-48 win to improve to a 7-4 record this season.

Head coach Will Anglin was impressed by the team’s resolve late in the game.

“She’s a gamer,” Anglin said of Samples-Slaton. “She made big shots down the stretch and they found a way to win. It wasn’t our prettiest game but you’ve got to find a way to win the ugly ones.”

If the second half of Monday night’s game was ugly, the first half was relatively serene.

Junior Morgan Chester continued to breathe life into the team’s interior game — as did fellow junior Jaci Wilson, who looked automatic from the paint. 

After a close first quarter, the Lady Tigers hit their stride and led by as many as 15 points before the second quarter ended at 30-18.

After missing out on chances to extend that lead, Dawson began to feel the pressure from Flowery Branch, who took advantage of turnovers to claw back into the game.

The visitors led early in the fourth quarter at 44-42 but were unable to sustain the rally.

“It’s hard to keep playing defense when you’re not getting shots because you’re turning it over,” Anglin said. “Playing inside seems to be our best bet. Our bigs played great…we scored a few easy buckets, which kind of opened it up to where we were able to kick it out and hit a few threes.”

The boys team faced a Flowery Branch side that they had previously faced this season, losing by just a single point.

The opening quarter was played at breakneck speed, resulting in a flurry of shots made by both teams.

Trey Harvey and Joshua Priest helped the Tigers keep pace early on with the Falcons, who came into the game with an 8-1 record. 

But after trailing just 22-19 following the first quarter, Dawson was unable to sustain that energy and would gradually lose control of the contest, losing 90-54.

Harvey led the team with 11 points while Nick Bellinger had one of his best games as a Tiger, scoring 10 points and giving a valiant effort off the bench in the difficult second half. 

 “Today, we got away from playing together offensively and defensively,” head coach Todd Cottrell said. “We have to share…we have to screen for each other. When we get away from that, we struggle.”

Two former members of DCHS basketball were recognized as honorary captains for the night. 

Maddie Anglin was a member of the Lady Tigers’ 2019 Elite 8 team and averaged 17.6 points per game during her high school career. The 2021 graduate was named as the 2021 DCN Female Athlete of the Year.

Luke Chism was a part of the Tigers’ 2019 Final Four run and was named as that season’s Region 7-3A Player of the Year.

The DCHS varsity basketball teams will head up to Dalton for the Carpet Christmas Classic beginning Wednesday, Dec. 28.

First up will be the Lady Tigers at 1 p.m. against Walker Valley High School from Cleveland, Tennessee, while the boys team will face Westminster at 5:30 p.m.