DAWSONVILLE -- Dawson County boys basketball coach Thad Burgess often worries about his team's lack of depth.
Thanks to their fast start on Monday, the Tigers set Burgess's nerves at ease for at least one night.
After falling behind East Hall 2-0 in Dawsonville, Dawson County ripped off a 13-0 run that ballooned to a 20-6 first quarter lead and a 31-8 halftime advantage that the Tigers converted into a 60-49 victory.
"That first half was as good as we could play," Burgess said. "We knew East Hall would make a run, and they did. But it was good to see that we had enough energy to answer that run."
If not for Dawson County's total dominance of the first half, the Vikings may have made life uneasy for the Tigers (19-2, 8-2 Region 7-AAA) after putting up 28 fourth quarter points. But by the time Triston Cooper sank a 3-pointer to cut Dawson County's lead to single digits for the first time since midway through the first quarter just 28 seconds remained in the contest.
"We only play about seven guys, and that means we end up playing a lot of close games, and that depth just scares you to death sometimes," Burgess said. "But we gave ourselves a great cushion tonight, and our guys hit some big free throws to maintain control of the game.
"And the guys play with everything they've got. They just know what it takes to win."
Certainly the Tigers held the winning formula in the first half, draining three early 3-pointers while playing suffocating defense to grab a decisive early lead. Gunnar Armstrong and Will Anglin each drained treys over the opening minutes for the Tigers, while Tyler Dominy also hit from outside -- part of a strong first half in which the senior scored 12 of his game-high 18 points.
Dominy also showed his defensive determination from the outset, swatting three first quarter shots -- he finished the game with eight blocks -- but he was far from alone, as Dawson County rarely allowed an open look for East Hall's shooters. And when the Vikings did pull the trigger, second shot opportunities proved even rarer, as Dawson County controlled the boards with 16 first half rebounds, compared to nine for the visitors.
In fact East Hall (7-13, 4-6) managed just one basket in the entire second quarter -- a putback from Brian Edwards that notched the senior's 1,000th point.
"I don't know if we could play better defensively," Burgess said. "We don't score a bunch, so we have to play good defense, but that was incredible in the first half."
The Tigers continued to pour it on early in the third quarter, as Anglin and Lucas Pain each scored to push the Dawson County advantage to 38-8.
East Hall's Cooper responded by finally breaking a 6:38 scoring drought for the Vikings, drilling a 3-pointer with 3:54 left in the period. The shot sparked East Hall, which closed the quarter on a 13-4 run. And the Vikings continued to chip away in the fourth quarter, closing within 50-38 on Hayden Chapman's lay-in with just over three minutes to play.
But the Tigers' would not yield control of the contest, Dominy responding with a thunderous alley-oop dunk before Armstrong and Jonathan Sanderson each hit free throws down the stretch to maintain Dawson's lead -- despite East Hall outrebounding the Tigers 20-11 in the second half.
"Sweeping East Hall, it just doesn't get much better than that; we haven't done that very much around here," Burgess said. "They're a team that's going to be hard to beat in the region tournament, and we showed what we're capable of times against them tonight."
The Tigers will look to keep things rolling on Tuesday when they travel to face Banks County in a busy week made busier by last week's inclement weather that forced Dawson County to battle East Hall on Monday -- the game was postponed from Friday.
East Hall, meanwhile, will play host to West Hall on Tuesday in a battle for seeding in the upcoming 7-AAA tournament.