After a week away from the court, the Dawson County Lady Tigers were back in action in back-to-back home games. On Friday, Dec. 13 they took on the North Hall Lady Trojans in a region 7-AAA contest followed by a showcase match against the White County Lady Warriors on Saturday, Dec. 14 in the Adrian Penland–North Georgia Report High School Shootout.
Neither game was decided until the final minutes. The Lady Tigers held off a ferocious comeback attempt by North Hall, in a game that saw three lead changes in the final minute, to claim the all-important regional win by a final score of 57-54. Unfortunately, their own comeback attempt fell short the next night and the Lady Warriors walked away with a 64-56 victory.
The Lady Tigers opened the game strong against North Hall with a pair of Kirklyn Porter (Fr) three-pointers bracketing a Marlie Townley (Sr) bucket to go on an 8-0 run in the first minute of the game.
Dawson County limited the Lady Trojans offensive chances with a dominating defensive effort led by junior Mariah Benson’s seven first period rebounds. Taking advantage of the extra scoring opportunities, the Lady Tigers racked up 25 first period points to take an 11-point lead into the second period.
North Hall slowed the tempo of the game in the second frame and deployed an aggressive press defense that created passing issues for the Lady Tigers. The physical nature of the game also led to foul trouble for Dawson County and the Lady Trojans were able to gain a little bit of ground heading into halftime.
The third period saw the game slow down even further as both teams played conservative offense, looking for the open shot. Townley and Henson continued to control the boards on both ends of the court, while North Hall’s Maci Gillespie kept Dawson County on their toes with multiple steals.
The Lady Trojans out-scored the Lady Tigers for the second period in a row, by a tally of 11-9, narrowing the Dawson lead to 45-39 and setting the stage for a wild fourth period of play that started with a bizarre technical foul on Dawson County point guard Sophia D’Oliveira.
North Hall pulled within one on the subsequent free-throws and then scored three more on a stolen inbound pass to take their first lead of the night with six minutes remaining in the game. Both teams accelerated their pace, going point-for-point over the next five minutes with the Lady Trojans clinging to their two-point lead.
A foul on D’Oliveira with less than thirty seconds to go sent her to the line for a one-and-one. Although she missed her first shot, D’Oliveira snagged her own rebound and dished a beautiful inside pass to Townley under the net who dropped the lay-up for the lead.
After a missed shot by the Lady Trojans, D’Oliveira found herself back at the free-throw line for another one-and-one. This time, with the game on the line, she did not miss dropping both shots cleanly through the net to give the Lady Tigers the win by a final score of 57-54.
“We have to get better at closing out games when we have the lead,” Sweat said. “We were fortunate to come out of this one with a win. Thank goodness for a 25-point first quarter.”
Three Lady Tigers accounted for the bulk of the team’s points with Townley’s double-double leading the way at 14 points and 10 rebounds. Henson also turned in a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. D’Oliveira was all over the court with her triple-double numbers of 10 point, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists.
With the win, the Lady Tigers sit at 2-1 in region 7-AAA and moved into a three-way tie for first with East Hall and Greater Atlanta Christian.
Saturday’s game with White County played out in almost exactly the opposite fashion for the Lady Tigers as they found themselves trailing 13-6 after the first period in the face of a two-man press defense from the Lady Warriors.
Battling aggression with aggression, Dawson County fought back through the second period, outscoring their opponents 18-14, but foul trouble late in the half allowed White County to maintain a three-point lead at halftime.
Halftime adjustments saw both teams hit the court with fresh legs and the third period turned into a mad romp up and down the court as the teams exchanged points and fouls (the teams combined for 23 second half fouls) for the entire eight minutes of play.
Early in the period, Townley and sophomore Avery Herring turned a pair of turnovers into points followed by a huge layup from D’Oliveira to give the Lady Tigers the lead at the half-way mark of the quarter.
White County went almost perfect from the free-throw line and scored the final five points of the third to re-take the lead 42-40 heading into the final stanza.
Fouls continued to be the difference in the early minutes of the fourth as the Lady Warriors scored a quick seven points on a combination of free throws and buckets. From there, despite a ferocious attack by the Lady Tigers, White County was able to hold the lead until the end, capturing the victory by a final score of 64-56.
“We came out on the wrong end of another tough battle,” Sweat said. “Turnovers and missed shots make it difficult to get the win.”