Just over a month ago, there was no clear idea who would coach or represent the Dawson County Parks and Rec all-star basketball team.
After being tasked to solve this issue, coaches Beau Cooper and Goose Conowal came together and assembled a makeshift roster of individuals who had just a couple of weeks to prepare for a district tournament.
Despite initial chaos, the team won four games over two days in late February to win their district and advance to the state tournament in Effingham County last weekend.
“We kind of threw it all together the last week before [deadline],” Cooper said. “It’s usually hard to get 17U kids to come to practice…they’ve got life going on. Just to get it to work out, they all made a really large effort to show up to practice.”
Soon after coming together, the team would travel to play Barrow County and Madison County on Wednesday, Feb. 23 and Thursday, Feb. 24.
The first order of business was to form the team identity, which was immediately established by each player’s desire to win. Cooper and Conowal helped form a team that has balanced individual efforts with a total team effort to score points.
“We play very, very aggressively,” player Johnathon Powell said. “Score points as fast as we can and draw fouls.”
With the aggressive playing style comes frequent substitutions, but the players have quickly become familiar with each other and do not lose confidence — regardless of who is on the floor.
While that confidence worked well in their opening-game win over Barrow, they were admittedly humbled in a close loss to Madison County. The next day, the Dawson team escaped a tough effort from Barrow before emphatically winning their final game against Madison.
One element to this success that Conowal noticed was the players’ commitment to both their own and each others’ success.
“All of them play with a type of swagger and love for the game, but more so love for each other,” Conowal said. “Whenever they score, the bench gets hyped.”
In such a short period of time, the team created lasting memories for themselves as they moved on to the state tournament on Friday, March 4.
While the team is enjoying the moment, it is not clear if Cooper and Conawal will be able to coach a group like this again next season, due to various administrative changes.
During one of the region games, Conowal was stated as saying to a parent that “[He] wasn’t necessarily afraid of losing and not playing basketball anymore, it was losing and not being able to coach and be a part of the team anymore with the boys.”
The Dawson County basketball team began pool play on Friday for seeding before heading into single-elimination play on Saturday.
On Friday, Dawson County made quick work of opponents Union City 70-35 and were then tasked with playing three games on Saturday.
First up was host team Effingham County, who fell 69-62 to the Tigers. Four hours later, Dawson County won their semifinal game against Waynesboro-Burke 72-55 to advance to the championship game.
Facing Camden County, the Tigers held a seven point lead at halftime but eventually lost 60-51.
“Overall it was a great experience…I genuinely believe we were the best team there,” Cooper said. “I love the boys and just was happy to be able to experience this with them and hope this is something they’ll look back on and see how much fun we had instead of how we came up just short of our goal.”