Basketball season is finally here, and the Dawson County Tigers began the 2019-20 campaign on Nov. 9 at the Adrian Penland/North Georgia Report High School Showcase with a game against the Mountain View Bears of region 6-AAAAAAA.
In their first regular season game under head coach Eric Herrick the Tigers found themselves locked in a tight battle with the Bears as neither team was able to pull away at any point in the contest. A pair of free throws from junior Mason Barnes with five seconds remaining on the clock decided the game in Dawson County’s favor by a final score of 69-67.
Spreading the ball around the field in the first period, every member of Dawson County’s starting line-up found the net to give the Tigers a 21-14 lead at the end of the opening stanza. Seniors Eli Burrus and Tate Adkins along with Barnes established the outside game for the Tigers, while senior Jasper Gibson and junior Max Tierney worked their magic under the net.
“We will rely heavily on our perimeter shooting all year,” Herrick said. “I feel it’s our biggest strength.”
Mountain View, on the strength of three second period field goals from point guard N. Scales combined with a combination of shots from center M. Davis, ripped off 18 second period points to Dawson County’s nine to take a slim 32-30 lead into half-time.
After sitting out the first half for disciplinary reasons, senior Campbell Reed entered the game and pushed the Tigers back into the lead with a massive 10-point run, including a pair of three pointers in the third period.
“(Reed) was late to a shooting session. You have to set the rules early, and be consistent,” Herrick said. “At Dawson County, we are going to do things the right way.”
Entering the fourth period holding a three-point lead, the Tigers battled point-for-point as the Bears mounted a ferocious interior attack using Scales size to overpower Dawson County in the lane.
The Tigers responded with a two-pronged attack, sending Gibson to the net, while Adkins lit up the boards from the perimeter.
Heading into the final minute of the game, Gibson drew his fifth foul and was forced out of the game. Mountain View tied the game on the ensuing free throws, and with ten seconds remaining Coach Herrick gathered his team around him to sketch out one final play.
Moving quickly, the Tigers moved the ball from the sideline around the court, setting up a drive to the net by Barnes who was quickly fouled on his approach. Heading to the line for the one-and-one, Barnes knew that the game most likely rested on his shoulders.
“I just kept thinking about how hard my team had played,” Barnes said. “I wanted to make these shots and move onto the next play.”
After the first shot dramatically bounced around the rim before falling through the net, Barnes coolly sank the second shot to five the Tigers a 69-67 lead with five seconds remaining.
“We wanted to put the ball in (Barnes’) hands on the last possession. I have a ton of confidence in Barnes to get us a great shot in those situations,” Herrick said. “Also helps that he’s a great free throw shooter.”
A long, half-court shot from the Bears found the backboard as time expired but bounced harmlessly to the floor to give Dawson County the well-earned victory.
“We practice those late game situations all the time, so we know what to do. I just tell them what play we want, and we trust our training,” Herrick said. “It was really important that we won in regulation. Rather had not went to overtime with (Gibson) fouled out already.”