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BASKETBALL: Season comes to an end for Dawson boys after tourney loss to Pickens
Caden Reed takes a contested shot during the Region 7-3A tournament quarterfinal game against Pickens on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Reed led the Tigers with 26 points. - photo by Rio White

Dawson County’s varsity boys basketball team fell 75-64 to Pickens in the first round of the Region 7-3A tournament on Tuesday, Feb. 14, with the Tigers finishing just short of their goal of qualifying for the state playoffs. 

Tuesday night’s loss proved to be another close call for Dawson, with the late-game heroics and combined 46 points of Caden Reed and Trey Harvey not enough against a hot-shooting Dragons team. 

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The Tigers came into the game having beaten Pickens twice already this season. But Dawson’s slow start to this third meeting — at the neutral site of White County — proved too steep of a hill to climb.

“We didn’t play well, especially early. We dug too deep of a hole,” head coach Todd Cottrell said. “We got back in it but couldn’t seem to make the one play that would get [the deficit] to two or four.”

In a way, Cottrell said, the game went along much like the team’s season. 

While Dawson’s final overall record of 9-17 is only a three-win improvement from the previous season, the Tigers had several games this year that had them leading at halftime or into the fourth quarter, only for that lead to evaporate.

In other games, the Tigers fell behind early before making a concerted effort to stage a rally, only for those efforts to also fall short. 

The latter occurred against Pickens in the region tournament, with the Dragons building a 20-9 lead after the first quarter.

While the sixth-seeded Tigers eventually responded, finding success from distance to cut the deficit to 25-21, third-seeded Pickens found their shooting touch once more to lead 34-26 at halftime. 

From there, the Dragons became hard to stop, especially from the three-point line. Their eight-point halftime lead ballooned to as large as 20 points in the fourth quarter before a late Dawson charge reduced the arrears.

The efforts of Reed and Harvey, along with fellow juniors Ethan Parker and Joshua Priest, helped the Tigers stay competitive with Pickens and many other teams that the team faced this season.

“I’m really proud of these guys,” Cottrell said. “I know our record doesn’t indicate [it]...but our guys improved on the court and off the court. The future is extremely bright, and I think if we continue to work like we’ve been working, we’re going to get the results we’re looking for.”

Throughout the season, a lot was asked of the four juniors — on both ends of the floor. While this resulted in all of them earning All-Region honors, they will also be hoping to bring the Tigers back to the state playoffs next season. 

One area the team will work on over the summer is developing as much bench support for those upcoming seniors as possible. A talented crop of rising freshmen may do just that.

While some players showed flashes of production off the bench this season, many of the players were new to varsity-level basketball and needed more time to develop the experience needed to keep up with a balanced region. 

Next season, the Tigers will seek the depth necessary to help finish off games where the core four carried the load in defeat, such as close calls against West Hall and Gilmer.

And if any group of seniors can bring the Tigers back to its winning ways, next year’s bunch has both the ability and character to do so.