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For Dawson boys basketball, improvements are more than just about numbers
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Head coach Todd Cottrell and the Tigers bench watch the action on the court during the game against East Jackson on Friday, Dec. 2. - photo by Rio White

Just over a month ago, when the DCN sat down with the Dawson County High School boys varsity basketball team during Winter Media Day, the three players present for the event looked focused and collected.

Coming off a challenging transition season that yielded just six wins, the junior trio — Trey Harvey, Ethan Parker and Caden Reed — could have made excuses about being tasked with leading a young roster. 

Instead, those players embraced their role as leaders and talked about building accountability within the entire team. 

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As a result, the Tigers have already matched the previous season’s win total, accumulating a 6-6 record roughly halfway into the 2022-23 regular season. 

By the end of Winter Media Day, head coach Todd Cottrell could hardly hold back a smile in admiration of the trio’s maturity.

“We take a big role in being leaders for our team,” Harvey said. “But everybody is a leader on our team. Everybody’s talking, doing the right thing, being accountable and holding others accountable. It’s a good group this year. We’re excited.”

While the win total may be nice to look at, the real improvement within the team this season reaches deeper than that.

One important element of growth has been the team’s ability to hold leads. 

Last season, the team faced several single-digit losses that were a few small outcomes away from victory. While the Tigers have had a couple leads slip away this season, the team’s resilience revealed itself in close wins against Model and East Jackson.

Another area of improvement has been the efforts off the bench. 

The aforementioned trio, along with sharpshooter Joshua Priest, have scored the bulk of the team’s points this season, but there has been a gradual increase in consistency from others.

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Caden Reed (2) brings his teammates together during the game against Flowery Branch on Monday, Dec. 19 - photo by Rio White

Most recently, Nick Bellinger helped keep the Tigers’ spirits high during the game against Flowery Branch.

For every basket the Falcons scored to extend their lead, Bellinger would increase his aggression down the court, finishing with 10 points. 

Aspen England has also been a key contributor, bringing plenty of energy when the starters are in need of rest. His defensive efforts have been significant in helping the team maintain leads. 

One other important player is frequent starter Owen Walls, whose rebounding skills have often helped take the load off Harvey, who regularly reaches a double-digit rebound total. 

All of these efforts tie back to the overall message put forth by the players at Winter Media Day — that everyday improvement takes priority over the statistics. 

“Our short-term goal is getting better everyday and coming in with the best attitude and best effort we can give,” Reed said. “Whether that leads to wins or losses is out of our control.”

So far within Region 7-3A, the Tigers have a 1-2 record but have shown an ability to compete against all three teams. 

Against West Hall, Dawson trailed by eight points at halftime before leading during the third quarter. A late rally by the Spartans would give the Tigers a loss in their region opener. 

Dawson would visit Gilmer three days later, holding a lead at halftime before ultimately falling short. The Tigers would later earn their first region win against Pickens. 

The Tigers have a tournament in Dalton this week and a game in Chattanooga, Tennessee next week before resuming their competition against Region 7-3A opponents. That game will be away at Lumpkin County on Tuesday, Jan. 10. 

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