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Lady Tigers look strong in win over Cherokee Bluff
Lady Tigers Basketball
Junior Mariah Benson reacts to a loose ball on Jan. 3 in a game against the Cherokee Bluff Lady Bears. Benson finished the game with 22 points and 12 rebounds as the Lady Tigers went on to win by a final score of 61-44. - photo by Bob Christian

The Dawson County Lady Tigers held off a surprisingly strong Cherokee Bluff Lady Bears team on Jan. 3 to come away with a 61-44 victory in the team’s first game of the new year.

The region 7-AAA battle kicked off the final stretch of the regular season as the Lady Tigers prepare to face eight regional opponents in the last nine games of the 2019-2020 schedule.

Dawson County entered the game riding the momentum of a third-place finish in the Christmas in Commerce tournament over the holiday break, while the Lady Bears were looking to bounce back from back-to-back losses in the Lanierland tournament.

Hungry for their first regional win, Cherokee Bluff opened the game with a full-court press defense forcing the Lady Tigers to the outside. Junior Maddie Anglin responded with a three-point shot to give Dawson the early lead, but the teams quickly settled into a defensive struggle during the first minutes of the contest.

Points were difficult to come by in the first period as both squads probed for weakness, using the passing game to great effect, and took shots only when there was a clear opening. Tied at 14 in the final seconds, a buzzer beating three from Anglin, her second of the period, gave the Tigers a 17-14 lead at the end of the opening eight minutes.

Led by junior Mariah Benson, the Lady Tigers pulled away early in the second period, going on an 11-4 run in the first three minutes of the second period. Benson dominated the offensive lane, posting double-double numbers with 13 points and 11 rebounds in the first-half, applying pressure on the Lady Bears during every possession.

Cherokee Bluff returned to an aggressive full-court defense in the final minutes before the half and battled back with a flurry of points to close the gap to four points as the teams headed to the locker room for the mid-game break.

Both teams reverted to a defensive set in the third period and points, once again, became difficult to find as the teams combined for 13 points over eight minutes of play. Anglin switched up her game, moving from the outside arc to driving the lane to give the edge to Dawson County and the Lady Tigers went into the final period with a nine-point lead.

Dawson County finally broke through the Cherokee Bluff defense in the fourth period, outscoring the Lady Bears 17-9, to pull away from the Lady Bears and pick up the first win of 2020 by a final score of 61-44.

For senior point guard Sophia D’Oliveira, who tallied 12 points and 11 assists, the challenge from the Lady Bears, despite their winless regional record, was no surprise.

“We play in such a tough region,” D’Oliveira said. “You never know who is going to rise and fall on any given night. It’s just a matter of all of us having our best game at the same time, and tonight, we had that and came away with the win.”

Benson finished the night with 22 points and 12 rebounds, leading the team in both categories. Anglin added 18 points to the board, dropping three three-point shots in the first half.

The win allowed the Lady Tigers to keep the pace in region 7-AAA as they moved to 4-1 in the region to remain tied with the Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans in first-place.

Dawson County got the opportunity to move into first place by themselves when they hosted the East Hall Lady Vikings for another regional battle on Jan. 7. Results were unavailable as of press time.