On the heels of their second regional loss in a row, this one at the hands of the Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans on Jan. 14, the Lady Tigers knew they needed a win over the Lady Danes on Jan. 17 to regain momentum heading into the regular season’s final stretch.
With that need as a driving force, Dawson County hit the floor running. Senior Sophia D’Oliveira scored on the opening possession of the game, and the Lady Tigers followed up by forcing five turnovers and blocking two to build an 11-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game.
Unfortunately, the defensive woes that have occasionally plagued the Lady Tigers all year allowed the Danes to return the favor and the first period ended with Dawson holding only a 15-11 lead.
Dawson County started the second period with another excellent offensive effort, this time scoring seven unanswered points. But the Lady Danes, for the second time in the half, wrested control away from the home team and racked up 12 points of their own before the Lady Tigers could recover to end the streak and take a 26-23 lead into the locker room at halftime.
During the break, as the teams made their various adjustments, 8-year old Jackson Stoddard emerged from the stands to entertain the crowd with an impromptu display of shooting skills. At one point making five shots in a row from the three-point line, Stoddard fired up the crowd on both sides of the court with his ability.
“He has a natural shot,” father Tom Stoddard said. “And a real passion for the game. He will go out, all on his own, and shoot for at least a half-hour every day.”
The third period saw a change in the entire tone of the game as both teams turned what had been a run-and-gun shooting battle into a close, physical struggle in the lane.
Led by sophomore Avery Herring, playing in place of the injured Mariah Benson, the Lady Tigers began to pepper the net with shots, slowly building their lead through the third quarter of play.
Aided by Herring, senior Marlie Townley began to win the rebound battles on both sides of the court and Dawson County broke the game open with an 18-point period that gave them a 44-33 lead heading into the final set.
Townley and Herring continued to maximize the pressure on the Lady Danes in the fourth period, as each scored eight points and snagged multiple rebounds to close out the game with a commanding 67-44 victory.
Herring led the Lady Tigers in scoring with 18 points, while Townley led the team in rebounds with a ridiculous 17 grabs in the contest. Junior Maddie Anglin added 16 points to the boards to round out the Dawson County scoreboard.
“We started off good but Denmark made a run,” Head Coach Steve Sweat said in postgame comments. “We were able to get things rolling in the second half and outscored them 41-21 for the win.”
With the win, the Lady Tigers snapped a two-game losing streak and extended their overall record to 12-8 while the regional record remained at 5-3 after the loss to the Lady Spartans earlier in the week.
Four regional games make up the final stretch of the regular season, starting with a visit to North Hall to face the Lady Trojans on Jan. 21 and coach Sweat acknowledged that every game mattered from this point forward.
“It certainly seems like a must win scenario,” Sweat said. “Especially in a region as tough as ours, when one game can make all the difference. One win, or one loss, can mean the difference between fifth-place and first place. So, we definitely need to play like we did tonight.”