Dawson County High School Head Varsity Boys Basketball Coach Thad Burgess and his Tiger basketball team is headed to the state tournament for the third year in a row.
The Tigers defeated Union County, 49-36, Friday to reach the big dance.
Saturday, the team played Riverside Military Academy and fell short of a region championship, 66-34, at Rabun County High School.
“Unbelievable run for us the last two weeks,” said Burgess. “We won five games in a row, until Saturday night, to make the state playoffs for the third year in a row. What this team has accomplished after losing all five starters from last year and with only two seniors, Blythe Chester and Seth Stowers, has been more than I could ever ask for. Our team has nobody that scores in double digits, and every night, or week, someone different would step up for us.”
The Tigers sport a 16-11 record going into the playoffs. The team will be matched up against #3-seed Chattooga High School from Region 7-AA.
Chattooga will come into Saturday’s game with an impressive 20-4 record and a #6 ranking in the Coaches Poll for AA.
“They, Chattooga, are very talented,” said Burgess. “They were upset on Friday night and turned around and beat Pepperell 72-61 on Saturday to take third place. They are more athletic than we are used to playing. They are similar to Jefferson in many ways. We will need to keep the score in the forties to low 50s to have a chance. We cannot get in a track meet.”
Chattooga is averaging 79 points per game, while only giving up 63.
Dawson qualified for the semi-finals by beating Banks County, 58-47 on Wednesday night at North Oconee High School.
The Tigers placed four players in double figures. Jacob Evans and Stephen Scaife led the offense with 15 and 14 points respectively. Blythe Chester and Kaleb Holbrook each added 11 points in the win.
Burgess’ team put the game out of reach in the third quarter.
The Tigers only led 20-19 at the break, but outscored the Leopards 20-6 in the third quarter to extend its lead to 38-25.
Dawson hit some clutch free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
Defense was the name of the game on Friday between Dawson and Union. Both defenses rose to the occasion in the region semi-finals. The score at halftime was 16-14 Tigers.
The Tiger offense showed in the second half, as Dawson went on an 8-0 run, led by Scaife who had a career-high 22 points.
“Stephen just took over the game,” said Burgess.
At the end of three quarters, Dawson held a 31-24 lead. The Tigers extended that margin in the fourth quarter to come away with the 13-point victory.
Riverside used its height advantage to defeat Dawson on Saturday.
The Cadets limited Dawson to only 2-points in the second quarter, as they went into halftime with a comfortable 31-17 lead.
The Cadets, who defeated Dawson on two occasions during the regular season, continued to pour on the offense in the second half.
Riverside held a 47-25 advantage after three quarters and never looked back.
With the win, Riverside claimed its first region championship in the history of the school.
“We pulled our regulars in the third,” said Burgess. “We didn’t want anyone to get hurt going into the state playoff games.
The game Saturday night will be the first-ever state basketball play-off game held at the Ford E. Phillips Center.
Tip-off will be at 7:30 p.m.
“This is a great opportunity for our school and community to come to the Ford E. Phillips Center and show these boys how proud we are of them in representing all of us. I expect a big crowd to come out and be loud,” Burgess said.
E-mail Pam Jacobs at email@example.com.