On Tuesday, Feb. 16, the Dawson County Tigers won the region 7-3A championship after beating White County 59-50 for their third region championship win in a row.
Alongside assistant coach Will Anglin, only three Tigers have been a part of all three region championships: seniors Ty Whitmire, Max Tierney and Luke Smith.
In 2019, the Tigers were led by current Georgia College and State basketball player Luke Chism and head coach Chad Pittman. Chism graduated and Pittman retired after leading the team to the GHSA 3-A state tournament final four.
In 2020, the Tigers hired Eric Herrick to take over coaching duties. His team with sharp-shooting seniors Jasper Gibson and Campbell Reed once again won the region championship but were blindsided by a first round loss to Cedar Grove High School in the GHSA state tournament.
“Last year, we didn’t expect to lose in the first round,” Smith said. “You know, we really expected to go pretty far. So this year, I think we have a lot more motivation. It’s kind of a revenge thing.”
Steve Sweat retired from coaching the Lady Tigers and Herrick decided to make the return to girls’ basketball and took over the Dawson County program. The Tigers hired Lakeview Academy head coach Todd Cottrell to become the third head coach in three years for the Tigers.
“It’s been super easy with Cottrell,” Whitmire said. “Automatically everybody clicked.”
After waiting their turn, the trio finally got to contribute on the court. Tierney started this year at forward and was an honorable mention for the All-Region team. Whitmire and Smith played valuable minutes off the bench. Whitmire’s wait was proven worth it when Cottrell named him captain of the team.
Whitmire was set to start at guard with sophomore Jaden Gibson, but when both Joakeim Celestin and Jake Craft transferred to Dawson County from Forsyth Central High School in Cumming, he knew he needed to step up on the court in a different way.
“Before the transfers, I thought I had a pretty good chance to be a primary scorer but I was fine with losing that role,” Whitmire said. “I just wanted to win. So I tried to contribute as much as I could by verbally motivating them and that’s when he named me captain. It was a really cool feeling.”
This years’ region championship win was handled in a dramatic fashion. The Tigers went into the region tournament as the number three seed and had to upset Cherokee Bluff to qualify for the championship game. Their opponent, White County High School had already beaten them twice in the season, but the Tigers won 59-50.
All three seniors said that this region championship meant the most to them, saying they all felt like they had a biggest part in it.
“It’s senior year,” Smith said. “You want to go out with a bang.”
The trio added that they were not phased by having to play under three different head coaches throughout their high school career because they would not know any different.
“Honestly, we wouldn’t know any different,” Tierney said. “That’s our reality. But we really did luck out with Cottrell this year. Can’t complain.”
As far as which of the three teams is the best team, Whitmire said the 2019 team was hard to stop on defense. Tierney and Smith said that this team can push the tempo better and get to the basket to score better than any other team they’ve played with.
The Tigers will battle North Murray High School at Ford Phillips Center on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m.