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Season ends for Lady Tigers after loss to Westminster
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Senior Ella Siuta communicates directions to teammates during the game against Westminster. A strong leader, Siuta played her final game for the Lady Tigers Tuesday night. - photo by Rio White

A first-round loss in the AAA State Playoffs ended an otherwise successful season for the Dawson County girls basketball team, who lost to Region 5 champions Westminster 52-31 on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

The offensive struggles from the Lady Tigers’ previous two losses in the region tournament carried over to Tuesday’s playoff game. 

Early on, Westminster struggled to get points on the board and committed several turnovers that Dawson County was not able to convert into points for themselves.

The shooting prowess that the Lady Tigers had shown many times over the course of the season — such as the overtime win over East Forsyth and the region tournament win over North Hall — could not be found against the Wildcats.

“We gotta make shots,” head coach Eric Herrick said. “We were only down 10 at halftime, held [Westminster] to 18 points and we did everything we wanted to do defensively.”

 On the other end of the court, Dawson County played well defensively against a Westminster offense that had just come off an upset region championship win over Greater Atlanta Christian.

Led by senior Ella Siuta, the visiting defense held their own and kept the opponent from building a comfortable lead until well into the second half.

With the halftime score at just 18-8, scoring opportunities would again present themselves to Dawson County, but the Wildcats would find their shooting touch in the third quarter to take a commanding lead.

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Coach Eric Herrick gives directions to his players during a timeout in Tuesday night’s game. Herrick will seek to build an even stronger squad next season. - photo by Rio White

By the time junior Kirklyn Porter found her shooting touch, Westminster had doubled their scoring total in the third quarter alone and led 36-23 heading into the final quarter.

With momentum in hand, the Wildcats would run away with the game to advance in the state playoffs.

While Porter led the way with 13 points, the most spirited performance came from Siuta in her final outing for the Lady Tigers. Her defensive poise and leadership on the court helped her team stay in contention for most of the game.

"Ella had grown a lot as a player over the last two years,” Herrick said. “She has become a true leader…and she has done a great job guiding this young basketball team this year.”

While the first-round exit may sting for the moment, the Lady Tigers have plenty of reason to look forward to next season’s potential.

Replacing a leader and defensive force in Siuta will be no small task, but she was also the only senior in this season’s squad.

With a team that will be a year older and more experienced, the Lady Tigers have the pieces to improve on the past season’s record. Specifically, the team has strength in its length, with players such as Morgan Chester, Heather Burt and Eva Bishop set to have important roles inside.

Porter’s shooting ability is well known, but another player whose offensive skills will be needed is Abby Slaton, who is both a strong shooter from distance and someone who is eager to drive inside and create space.

All told, each member of this season’s 17-win team will have a chance to improve over the offseason and lay claim to an important role on next year’s team.