The final games of the 7-3A regional tournament on Feb. 9 featured superstar performances and fast-paced offenses as the Dawson County Tigers were declared region champions with a hard-fought 86-76 win over Greater Atlanta Christian while the Lady Tigers defeated the Cherokee Bluff Bears 77-61.
Gibson carries Tigers past GAC
The first half set the tone for the battle between Dawson County and GAC as the teams played a fast-paced, physical 16 minutes of basketball in their quest for the region 7-3A championship title.
The Spartans opened an early lead on the shooting skills of seniors Hunter McInctosh and Ben Sheppard that forced the Tigers to aggressively challenge the lane with senior Luke Chism and resulted in early foul trouble for Dawson County. Juniors Jasper Gibson and Eli Burruss found just enough open on the outside to keep the game close at 20-15 in favor of GAC headed into the second period.
GAC was able to maintain and extend the lead early in the second, but the Tigers continued to fight and managed to tie the game just prior to halftime. An exchange of buckets in the final minute of the period gave the Spartans a 43-39 lead going into the break.
Gibson returned to the court a changed man and took over the game in the third period as he turned into a sniper from the outside and put up 22 third-period points and rallied the Tigers to their first lead of the night, 63-61, headed into the final set.
The teams ran the boards hard in the opening minutes of the fourth period, trading buckets and the lead, until Burruss came away with an amazing steal and assist to Gibson that permanently flipped the board in favor of Dawson County and the Tigers went on to claim the 7-AAA regional championship title for the first time since 2012, by a final score of 86-76.
Gibson’s season-high 42 points for Dawson County led all scorers.
The win caps off an incredible season for the Tigers that saw them go 24-4 overall and 10-2 in the region. Dawson County will enter the GHSA state playoffs as the top-seeded team from Region 7-3A and will faceoff against the No. 4 seeded team from Region 6-3A on Feb. 16.
Lady Tigers ride early lead to win
The Lady Tigers took to the floor in the first quarter with a full-press defense, seemingly catching the Bears off guard, and forced a series of turnovers that allowed Dawson County to open a 27-10 lead by the end of the period.
Senior Kaylee Sticker lit up the scoreboard from every corner of the floor during the second to keep the pressure on the Bears, and the Lady Tigers extended their lead to 46-25 at halftime.
Dawson County moved to a half-court style defense for the second half that opened up the floor for both teams and allowed Sticker to continue challenging the Bears interior. Cherokee Bluff kept pace with the Lady Tigers, outscoring them 16-15 in the period, but trailed by 20 points headed into the final period.
Cherokee Bluff senior Chelsea Reece opened the fourth with an 8-point streak in the first minute to cut the lead in half, and the Lady Tigers found themselves hard pressed by a suddenly resurgent Bears team.
Junior Marlie Townley responded by aggressively defending the lane and drew a pair of critical fouls that stopped the Bears and swung momentum back to the Lady Tigers. Dawson County pulled away in the final minutes to win the game by the final score of 77-61.
Sticker led all scorers with a season high 35 points, and Townley added 14 points from underneath the net along with six rebounds.
In the post-game ceremony Sticker was recognized as the 7-3A Player of the Year and junior Sophia D’Oliveira was named a member of the all-region team.
With the win, Dawson County finished third in region 7-3A with a final record of 20-8 and a regional record of 9-3 and will play in the opening round of the GHSA state playoffs on Feb. 15 against the Coahulla Creek Colts.