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Tigers advance to Sweet 16
Hope to pack gym for tonights game
3 Advance pic1
Dawson County High Schools Jonathan Sanderson drives for two of his 12 points in Saturdays victory over Calhoun. With the win, the Tigers advance to the second round of the state Class AA high school basketball tournament. They face Buford tonight in Ford Phillips Gym. - photo by Ryan Coker Dawson Community News

Ford Phillips Gym erupted as the final buzzer sounded Saturday night.

For the first time in school history, Dawson County High boys basketball team had won a first round state Class AA playoff game at home.

Following the 54-52 triumph over Calhoun, the Tiger players rushed over to the stands as a celebration broke out.

"It was an unbelievable crowd of over a thousand fans," said Thad Burgess, head coach. "The fans, they would not let us lose. It was really a win for our entire community.

"What a feeling to see how Dawsonville and surrounding communities have attached to this team. Our players represent what high school sports are all about: Great kids, great students, great families and a great community backing them."

That support will be needed again tonight as the Tigers (24-6) play host to No. 7 Buford (21-7) in a second-round game. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

"What a challenge that lies ahead for us with Buford coming to town," Burgess said. "It should be a special night in our gym and a monumental task ahead.

"Buford is big, athletic and deep, with several potential college players on their team."

Burgess believes his team is up for the task.

"Our players will give every ounce of energy they have, and lay it on the line, no doubt in my mind. They look forward to this challenge. They know the community will be there for them."

Saturday, Gunnar Armstrong led the Tigers with 16 points and Jonathan Sanderson added 12. Bruce Clark recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

It was a close game for all four quarters. Dawson led 10-7 after one quarter of play and 22-15 at half.

The Yellow Jackets from Calhoun fought back in the third quarter and cut Dawson's lead to 35-31, but the Tigers held on.

The Tigers' other leading scorers included Will Anglin and Tyler Dominy, who each added 8.

Ben Lamb led Calhoun in scoring with 21 points, while Grayson Arnold chipped in 12.

According to Burgess, he couldn't be happier with his team's effort.

"I knew Calhoun would play well," he said. "We have similar types of tempo. They are used to playing in games like this after capturing a state football championship over Buford in the fall.

"But our boys found a way at the end. Now [we have] a chance to move on."

Up next for the Tigers is Buford, which advanced by defeating Spencer of Columbus 79-60 in the first round.

The Wolves are led by 6-foot 8-inch T.J. Shipes, a Georgia State signee and 2011 first team all-state selection.

Shipes, who leads Gwinnett County in blocked shots this season, paced the Buford attack with 33 points against Spencer.

The Wolves play in Region 6-AA. They have won 10 of their last 12 games, with the only two losses coming to region foe and top-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian.