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BASKETBALL: Tigers win semifinals against Cherokee Bluff; play Tuesday for third region title in a row
Max Tierny high-fives Joakeim Celestin after converting an and-one attempt during the 77-68 Tigers' victory over Cherokee Bluff in the 2021 region semifinals. Tierny scored 20 and Celestin scored 19 in the game. - photo by Jacob Smith

The Tigers won the region semifinals against Cherokee Bluff 77-68 Saturday afternoon to play for their third region title in a row. 

Max Tierny and Jaden Gibson recorded double-doubles in the game. Tierny had 20 points and 10 rebounds, both team highs. Gibson scored 10 points and threw 14 assists. 

Joakeim Celestin scored 19 points and stole the ball five times from the Bears’ offense. Jake Craft also scored in double digits with 18 points. 

“We were just trying to play in a flow offensively,” Tigers head coach Todd Cottrell said. “I thought our guys did really well. We didn’t take too many bad shots and got on a roll.”

The Tigers recorded 22 assists as a team and stole the ball 11 times. Two back-to-back steals by Celestin at the start of the second quarter turned into four points, bringing momentum to the Tigers’ sideline. 

Dawson County led the game at the end of every quarter, with a 3-pointer by Ty Whitmire as time expired in the second quarter gave the Tigers a one-point lead at halftime. 

“It gives us momentum,” Cottrell said. “Our guys bring enthusiasm and energy from our bench all the time.” 

Tierny started the second half with a breakaway dunk and the Tigers never lost control of the game from there. 

After a Cherokee Bluff called a timeout down 60-49 with 5:46 left in the game, the Bears went on a 9-2 run to bring the game within four points. However, the Tigers converted seven free throws late to seal the victory. 

The win not only advances the Tigers to the region championship on Tuesday, Feb. 16, but also ensures that the Tigers will get to host at least one home game in the GHSA 3A state tournament. 

“One of our goals this year was to get to this point to have a chance to play for a region championship,” Cottrell said. “Let’s just hope we keep playing well. When we play like who we are, we’re a pretty good basketball team.”

The Tigers will battle the White County Warriors for the region championship. The Tigers have lost both of their games against the Warriors this season. In their first match, Dawson Co. lost by one point and had the last shot for the hit off the rim. Their second game was a 28-point loss, the Tigers worst deficit of the season. 

Tuesday’s region championship will be at 7:30 p.m. at Gilmer High School.