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Lady Tigers spend Christmas in Commerce
Girls Basketball Sophia D
Senior Sophia D’Oliveira launches a three-point shot on Dec. 27 against the Stephens County Lady Indians in the first round of the Christmas in Commerce tournament. - photo by Bob Christian

In the team’s first action after a nearly week long break, the Dawson County Lady Tigers split a pair of games on Dec. 27 and 28 to finish third in the Christmas in Commerce basketball tournament hosted by East Jackson High School.

With a 3 p.m. tip-off on Dec. 27, the Lady Tigers opened the tournament against the Stephens County Indians in what was expected to be a tough match-up according to Dawson County Head Coach Steve Sweat.

“They are a good team,” Sweat said. “We expect them to hustle and shoot the ball well.”

The teams hit the floor obviously rusty from the holiday break with the first period turning into a low-scoring, frustrating combination of turn-overs and missed shots from both squads. The Lady Tigers started out strong, with the first five points of the contest, but the Lady Indians rallied for nine unanswered points to finish the period with a 9-5 lead.

Senior Sophia D’Oiveira found a sweet spot on the outside boundary to land a pair of three-pointers early in the second period, briefly giving the Lady Tigers the lead. Unfortunately, Stephens County established themselves under the net, out rebounding Dawson on both ends of the courts, to retake control of the game.

A buzzer beating shot from senior Marlie Townley cut the gap back to four points heading into halftime, but the Lady Tigers were still on the wrong side of the scoreboard trailing 20-16.

Stephens County continued to apply pressure in the opening minutes of the third period forcing a series of shooting fouls from the Lady Tigers. On the strength of four free-throws the Lady Indians launched a 7-0 run in the first two minutes of the second half to extend the lead to 11.

After a quick time-out, Dawson County attempted to mount a comeback but the Lady Indians had found their rhythm and outscored the Lady Tigers in both the third and fourth periods to win the game by a final score of 53-38.

“It was a rough start,” Sweat said. “You can’t miss shots at the goal and make unforced turnovers if you want to beat good teams.”

D’Oliveria was the only Lady Tiger to hit double digits with 14 points, while Townley narrowly missed a double-double with 9 points and 10 rebounds.

Day two of the tournament saw the Lady Tigers face-off against the hosting East Jackson Eagles in the consolation game.

Looking to bounce back from their opening performance, Dawson County hit the boards hard and jumped out to a 13-6 lead by the end of the first period.

East Jackson capitalized on a series of turnovers in the second period to not only close the gap, but take the lead by a score of 30-28 as the teams headed into halftime.

The Lady Tigers turned in a complete team performance in the third period to dominate the Eagles with a 20-point explosion, as freshman Kirklyn Porter, junior Bella Henson and D’Oliveira all found the mark from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Townley and junior Mariah Benson clamped down underneath the net to take control of the inside game and Dawson County went into the final period with a 9-point lead.

Once again, East Jackson fought back, mounting a ferocious comeback attempt in the final stanza, but this time the Lady Tigers matched them point for point and held on to win by a final score of 64-55.

“We got off to a better start tonight and made a good run in the third quarter,” Sweat said. “We have got to take better care of the ball when we start back in region play.”

Benson’s 18 points and 10 rebounds led the Lady Tigers in both categories. D’Oliveira and Porter both hit 12 points with Porter’s all coming from the three-point line. Henson, starting in place of the injured Maddi Anglin, rounded out the scoring with 9 points.

The Lady Tigers will not be in action again until Jan 3 when they open up a four-game stretch of regional games starting with the Cherokee Bluff Lady Bears at 6 p.m. in the Ford Phillips Arena.