The Dawson County Tigers basketball team earned their bid in the GHSA 3-A State Tournament after winning the first round of the region tournament 79-41 against Gilmer High School on Thursday, Feb. 11.
The Tigers offense came out of the gate on fire. They held a 22-6 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. The team made 11 three-pointers on the night.
“I hope we shoot like that every night,” Tigers head coach Todd Cottrell said after the game. “I’ve really liked our preparation. Our shootaround this morning was really good. They were prepared and focused. Hopefully we can keep up that approach.”
Four Tigers reached double-digit scoring in the game. Senior Joakeim Celestin led with a game-high 15 points scored. Senior Tyler Lane recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore Jaden Gibson scored 10 points with a game-high seven assists and senior Ty Whitmire scored 12 points, all four coming from behind the three-point arc.
“[Whitmire} has worked so hard this season,” Cottrell said. “To watch those go in was a huge boost to all of us on the team.”
The Tigers led 61-28 at the end of the third quarter. By GHSA rules, any time a team is winning by at least 30 points at the end of the third quarter, the fourth quarter lasts six minutes rather than eight. Junior Lane Perry and senior Luke Smith shined in the limited minutes. Perry scored six points and Smith recorded three assists.The win advances Dawson Co. onto the semifinals where they will match up with the No. 2 seed Cherokee Bluff. The Tigers have played Cherokee Bluff twice this season. The Tigers won the first game at home 61-57. Big men Lane and senior Max Tierny were key in the comeback victory, combining for five steals in the game.
The second match was all Cherokee Bluff. The Tigers allowed 76 points, tied for the most in any of their region games this season. Cottrell said he thinks Cherokee Bluff has possibly the most talented team in the region outside of the Tigers and knows the rematch will be a hard-fought battle.
“Cherokee Bluff bumped us last time,” Cottrell said. “We’re gonna have to do a little better, but I think if we play the way we play, then we’ll have a good chance. We have got to play hard though. If we give our best, we’ll just have to see what happens.”
If Dawson County wins on Saturday, it will mean two major victories for the Tigers: they will host the first round of the state tournament, and they will battle for their third region championship in a row.
“I’ve coached basketball for a long time in a lot of different places,” Cottrell said. “If it’s not the best, this arena is one of the best environments for high school basketball I’ve ever been in. When our students are here, it’s an advantage. Our fans are knowledgeable and love the game. You can’t beat playing here.”
The rematch against Cherokee Bluff will be on Saturday, Feb. 13 at Gilmer High School at 3:30 p.m.