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BASKETBALL: Tigers eliminated from state tournament in sweet 16 against Salem
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Jaden Gibson goes up for a layup during the 2021 sweet 16 loss against Salem High School. Photo by Paige Sweany with Sole Photography.

The Dawson County Tigers basketball team lost 64-41 against Salem High School, eliminating them from the GHSA Class 3A state tournament and ending their season. 

The Tigers could never get in a consistent rhythm on offense. Their 41 points was the lowest point total of the season

“We just got out of sync early,” Tigers head coach Todd Cottrell said. “Couldn’t hit the open shots. Even when we got close looks, we couldn’t get them to go. Free throws were tough. Just a combination of a lot of little stuff.”

Joakeim Celestin, Region 7-3A Player of the Year, led the Tigers with 10 points. Max Tierney scored nine points and led the team with 12 rebounds and three assists. 

Salem’s Javen Smith scored 27 points in the winning effort. Smith unofficially visited University of Georgia in 2018 but has not committed to play college basketball anywhere. 

Despite the loss, the Tigers won 22 games and were named region champions for the third year in a row with their third different head coach. Cottrell said though it’s hard to communicate the success in the moment, he will continue to tell his team how proud the coaching staff is. 

“Yes, you try, but they’ve invested a lot of time in this,” Cottrell said. “We are extremely proud. Wish we would’ve played better. We just didn’t have the shots fall. We got some looks, but we couldn’t get it done.”

The Tigers graduate six seniors: Celestin, Tierney, Jake Craft, Tyler Lane, Luke Smith and Ty Whitmire. Celestin, Tierney, Lane and Craft were a part of the Tigers starting five along with sophomore Jaden Gibson. 

“They went through something together that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives,” Cottrell said. “Hopefully they learned something that will make them better husbands, fathers and men.”

Cottrell said he has no plans to depart from the head coach role at Dawson County at the end of the season and is excited about the future of the program.