The North Forsyth Thanksgiving Classic, also known as the Raiders Classic, tipped-off on Nov. 23 at North Forsyth High School. Featuring eight teams from the local area, including Dawson County, the annual tournament is a good early-season test for the Tigers according to Head Coach Eric Herrick.
“We will play three games in the tournament, regardless of the results,” Herrick said. “It’s designed to ramp-up in difficulty each round so it will be a good measure of where we sit so far.”
The Tigers entered the Classic sporting a 2-0 record after senior Eli Burrus’ led the team past the Flowery Branch Falcons on Nov. 19 with a monstrous night under the net. Burrus grabbed 18 rebounds and posted 14 points to give Dawson County the 55-36 victory.
In round one of the weekend tournament against the Creekview Grizzlies on Nov. 23, the Tigers were equally effective on the boards. Burrus snagged another 10 rebounds and junior Max Tierney pulled down 12. Despite the defensive effort, Dawson County found themselves trailing through three periods of play.
“Rebounding is and will always be a huge focus for us,” Herrick said. “(Tierney) and (Burrus) have really made a point to try to get 10 each and every game.”
Trailing Creekview 48-42 heading into the final frame the Tigers needed an extra effort on offense. Junior Mason Barnes answered the call. In the fourth period alone, Barnes went 3 of 4 from the three-point line, along with a pair of shots from the lane to lead Dawson County on a 28-11 scoring streak.
Barnes finished the night with 23 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists as the Tigers pulled off the comeback win over the Grizzlies by a final score of 70-59.
“Barnes had a huge fourth quarter and really carried us,” Herrick said. “He was a little hesitant up until then and it was great to see him really step up.”
Round two of the Raiders Classic saw the Tigers paired-up against the Cherokee Warriors, another fast paced, physically aggressive team. From the opening whistle to the final shot it was obvious that the teams were well matched.
Cherokee took the early lead as senior Zack Vickers and junior Taihland Owens scored six apiece in the first period, while holding the Tigers offense to nine first period points.
Dawson County surged back in the second as Barnes plus seniors Campbell Reed and Jasper Gibson all found the net from beyond the arc, but the Tigers trailed by two points heading into half-time.
The two teams pounded the floor through the third period going nearly point-for-point, but the Grizzlies held onto their lead and entered the final period up by seven.
Gibson took control of the fourth period, sinking a pair of three-pointers along with a pair of free-throws, the Tigers’ point guard led his team to 21 points over the final eight minutes. Unfortunately, the effort fell short and Dawson County suffered their first loss of the season by a final score of 67-62
“We did a great job defensively, our kids really competed through all four periods,” Herrick said. “We took some not so great shots there at the end. We settled for some long threes instead of pushing inside and making them play defense for the last 15 seconds.”
With the loss, the Tigers moved to 3-1 on the season and faced the tournament hosting North Forsyth Raiders in the consolation match on Nov. 26. Results were unavailable as of press time.