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Lady Tigers find mixed results on extended road trip
Region record 3-2 after loss to Cherokee Bluff
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Sophomore Mariah Benson wrestles two Cherokee Bluff defenders for control of the ball in a game at Cherokee Bluff High School on Jan. 4. - photo by Bob Christian

Continuing a road trip that started the weekend before Christmas, the Dawson County Lady Tigers traveled to Hart County High School to take part in the McDonald’s Shootout from Dec. 27-29.

After high-scoring wins over the Wade-Hampton High School Generals on Dec. 27 and the Berkmar High School Patriots on Dec. 28 propelled them into the final round of the tournament, the Lady Tigers ran into a tough and determined Hart County team in a battle for the championship.

Both teams fought hard for points with senior Kaylee Sticker leading the Lady Tigers through the first half with 15 points that she put up with a combination of inside and outside shots.

Juniors Marlie Townley and Sophia D’Oliveira battled underneath to add points in the first quarter while sophomores Bella Henson and Maddie Anglin along with senior Anna Lowe racked up points in the second period.

Hart County was led by senior Torrion Starks and sophomore Taniya Alexander who combined to score 59 of the team’s 64 points. They were the only two Lady Bulldogs to score in the first half and the game went into the break deadlocked at 30.

The Lady Tigers began aggressively challenging the lane in the third period as Townley began to win the rebound battle and drew two fouls. Going 4 for 4 from the line Townley led the team with 8 points in the period. Sticker and D’Oliveira rounded out the scoring for Dawson County, but the duo of Stark and Alexander kept the pace and Hart County took a 1-point lead into the final period.

D’Oliveira took over the scoring for the Lady Tigers in the fourth period as she repeatedly found lanes inside the Lady Bulldogs defense and drove the net for a score or a foul. Sticker continued to add points, and sophomore Mariah Benson chipped in 5 points from the bench as Dawson County put up 17 fourth-period points to keep the pressure on the Lady Bulldogs.

Unfortunately, there was still no answer for Stark and Alexander. Despite being continuously fouled by the Lady Tigers, they combined for 18 fourth-period points and the Hart County Lady Bulldogs won the McDonald’s Shootout championship by the final score of 64-62.

“What a game! It was as good of a high school girls basketball game as you are going to see,” Head Coach Steve Sweat said. “The only problem was we came up on the short end of the score.”

Dawson County celebrated the new year with a trip to Pickens County to face off against the Dragonettes on Jan. 3.

Pickens County came into the game looking to match their longest winning streak of the year, at three, while exacting a little revenge on the Tigers for the 64-49 loss in the first meeting of the season. Dawson County was looking to bounce back from the loss at the McDonald’s Shootout, and both teams showed up ready to play.

Lowe dominated underneath the net on both ends of the court during the first period as she denied the lane to the Dragonettes and led the Lady Tigers in scoring during the first eight minutes. Along with points from Sticker, Townley, D’Oliveira and sophomore Shyla Sheffield, Dawson County opened an early 14-9 lead.

The Dragonettes responded by tightening up on defense in the second period and neither team crossed into double digits for the period being held to 9 points each for a halftime score of 23-18 in favor of Dawson County.

Lowe’s interior play continued to highlight the game as she once again held the lane against all challengers while adding points to the board. Townley and Sticker continued to find success and the Lady Tigers expanded their lead to 12 points as they pushed the score to 35-23 heading into the final period.

D’Oliveira surged to life in the fourth as she began to push past a tired Dragonettes defense to lead the Lady Tigers to their highest scoring period and the season sweep by a final score of 51-27.

Sticker’s 14 points led the team on the night while Lowe and D’Oliveira both posted 10. Townley rounded out the team’s top scorers with 8 points.

A game against the Cherokee Bluff Bears on Jan. 4 marked Dawson County’s fifth consecutive away game and the beginning of the late season’s regional schedule.

Playing their first season in region 7AAA, the Bears came into the game looking for their first regional win and their motivation in that goal showed in the opening period against the Lady Tigers.

Led by freshman Timber Gaither, Cherokee Bluff lit up the score board from the 3-point line and quickly took a 16–7 first-period lead over Dawson County.

The Lady Tigers started to fight back immediately led by their own freshman Ella Siuta, who sparked the offense with a 14-point explosion in the second period. Despite her efforts the Lady Bears kept the pace as Gaither continued to find success against the Tigers.

Down by 9 at the beginning of the second half, Dawson County came out shooting but had limited success as the normally accurate Tigers came up short. Defensively there was still no answer for Gaither and Cherokee Bluff senior Maddie Thomas took advantage of the Tigers for points as the Lady Bears extended their lead to 49-37 heading into the fourth quarter.

Dawson County refused to go down without a fight and, behind efforts from Townley and D’Oliveria, they outscored the Lady Bears over the final eight minutes of play. The effort proved too little, too late and the Lady Tigers fell to the Lady Bears by a final score of 69-56.

The loss brings Dawson County’s overall record 11-6 and moves them to 3-2 in regional play and a tie for second with Fannin County.

The Lady Tigers traveled to East Hall for a regional match-up with the Lady Vikings on Jan. 8. Results were not available at press time.