Rivalry games have always provided some of the most intense moments in sports and the Dec. 18 game between the Dawson County Lady Tigers and the Lumpkin County Lady Indians was no exception.
Battling to the absolute last second of overtime, the Lady Tigers held off the hard-charging Indians by a final score of 58–55 in a game that featured two aggressive defenses and white-knuckle moments from buzzer to buzzer.
In the face of tight man-to-man defense, it took over a minute for the Lady Tigers to put points on the board in the first period until senior Kaylee Sticker found an opening in the corner to sink a long, arcing shot for 3 points.
The Lady Indians fought back to take the lead midway through the first as sophomore Makenzie Caldwell bulled her way into the lane for a handful of points, but Dawson County quickly answered with a 3-point shot from freshman Ella Siuta to move back out front.
Despite five lead changes over the course of the first period, neither team could gain a firm upper hand and with a buzzer-beating bucket from junior Marley Townley, the game moved into the second knotted up at 13.
Dawson County opened the second period determined to set a faster pace and took a 4-point lead in the opening minute. Unfortunately, a series of turnovers by the Lady Tigers slowed down their momentum and allowed the Indians to run up 8 unanswered points to once again flip the score in their favor.
Townley, along with senior Anna Lowe, won the rebound battle on both sides of the court and brought Dawson County back to even midway through the period as each team continued to aggressively defend their lanes.
With two more 3-pointers in the closing minute, Sticker gave the Lady Tigers their biggest lead of the night at the end of the half as the teams headed to the locker room with the score sitting at 30–26.
Lumpkin County opened the third period with an emphasis on passing and was able to create several shooting opportunities to tie the game early in the quarter. More turnovers from the Lady Tigers allowed the Indians to continue scoring as they doubled up Dawson County 17–9 and took a 1-point lead into the final quarter.
With momentum on their side Lumpkin County built up their largest lead of the night, 45–41, at the halfway mark of the fourth. The Lady Tigers refused to give up and with just over two minutes remaining fought their way back to even. The teams exchanged buckets to remain tied until junior Sophia D’Oliveira found the net from the 3-point line to give the Lady Tigers a 3-point advantage with 1:08 left to play.
During the final minute of the game the Lady Indians abandoned the outside passing game and aggressively challenged Dawson County at the net.
A foul called against D’Oliveira with 0:44 seconds remaining sent Lumpkin County senior Ashley Wistoski to the free-throw line where she sank both her shots to narrow the Dawson County lead to a single point.
After she intercepted a pass and began a run for the open net, Lady Indian Mackenzie Pulley, senior and team captain, was fouled by Townley with 0:12 seconds on the clock. Stepping to the line with an opportunity to give her team the lead, Pulley only hit one of the two and the buzzer sounded on a 50–50 tie to send the game into overtime.
The overtime period opened with the Lady Tigers taking possession of the ball off the tipoff and Sticker was immediately fouled as she drove to the net. Putting both shots into the basket Sticker gave Dawson County the early lead, but Lumpkin County fought back with a quick 4 points to regain the momentum.
Dawson County continued to drive the lane and forced Lumpkin County into foul trouble as they sent D’Oliveira to the line for two shots to tie the game, and Lowe gave the Tigers the lead as she went one of two on her opportunity.
With 0:11.9 on the clock the Lady Indians were down to their last chance when Sticker intercepted the inbound pass and was fouled one last time. Calmly sinking the last two shots of the game she moved the Tigers to a 3-point lead and the buzzer sounded on a final score of 58–55.
“What a game,” said Head Coach Steve Sweat. “Two rival schools going head to head in a Region 7-AAA matchup.”
Sticker led the team in scoring with 20 points on the night while Lowe and Siuta both scored in double digits at 11 and 10 respectively. The win moved the Lady Tigers to 3–1 in the region and a three-way tie for first with North Hall and Greater Atlanta Christian.