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BASKETBALL: Tigers keep rolling, claw back against Cherokee Bluff for region victory
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Jake Craft shoots over the Cherokee Bluff defender during the Dawson County Tigers 61-57 victory on Jan. 8. Craft scored 15 points during the game. - photo by Jacob Smith

After being down by eight points at halftime, the Dawson County Tigers came back to win 61-57 and give the Cherokee Bluff Bears their first region loss of the season. 

The Tigers (9-5, 3-1 in region 7-3A) came back from the locker room at halftime ready to attack the Bears (9-6, 4-1 in region 7-3A) on both sides of the court. The team started the second half on a 12-0 run and went into the fourth quarter with a five-point lead. Despite the Bears bringing the game within one score multiple times in the fourth, they could not regain the lead.

“Bottom line is that these guys are hard workers who love playing for their team,” Tigers head coach Todd Cottrell said after the game. “We started out great defensively and that gives you momentum on offense.” 

Though he did not score at all in the first half, Joakeim Celestin led all Tigers with 17 points in the game. He also put up seven rebounds, five assists and converted a handful of free throws at the end of the game to seal the Tigers victory. Celestin has been on fire of late, averaging over 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists during his last three games. 

“I just try to remind myself that this is my senior year,” Celestin said after the game. “I’m gonna do whatever it takes to help my team come out with the win, whether it’s scoring one day or playing strong defense the next. We’re hungry.” 

Jake Craft started the game on fire for the Tigers as well. He scored the team’s first 10 points and ended the game with 15. Both Jaden Gibson and Tyler Lane combined for five steals in the fourth quarter, denying the ball anytime Cherokee Bluff tried to drive into the paint. Gibson also scored 10 points in the game.

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Ty Whitmire jumps high into the air for a shot against Cherokee Bluff during the Dawson County Tigers 61-57 victory on Jan. 8. - photo by Jacob Smith

The Bears were undefeated in region play before the loss to the Tigers, but Cottrell said he would not call the victory an upset for Dawson County. 

“I think this region is full of equal teams,” Cottrell said. “Hopefully you’re gonna be able to come away with your home games, but we think we will be right up there for a chance at the championship.” 

The Tigers continue their season against non-region opponent Pickens County (6-4, 4-1 in region 7-4A) on Saturday at 4 p.m.