DAWSONVILLE -- If Friday's tension-filled, Region 7-AAA game between East Hall and Dawson County turns out to be the norm, then area fans are in for a treat the rest of the season.
The Tigers rallied from an early deficit, held off a late charge by East Hall, and displayed some true grit in the final minutes in a 60-50 win at home.
It was a big game for both teams as region play heats up for real now that the new year has arrived.
"It was an intense game on both sides and we were fortunate to come out with a win," Dawson County coach Thad Burgess said. "East Hall is always so tough. They jumped on us early but we were able to make some plays on defense and that really got us going."
The Vikings came out strong forcing three Dawson County turnovers while building a quick 6-2 lead. But the Tigers used their height to force East Hall into several bad shots and help ignite their fastbreak offense.
Lucas Pain would give Dawson County (12-3, 3-1 Region 7-AAA) its first lead, 8-6, on a 3-pointer and spark a 11-1 run over the final 6:10 of the first quarter. The Tigers then used a 9-2 run to start the second quarter to push its lead to 22-9.
East Hall would not get closer than four until late in the fourth quarter. The Vikings (6-7, 1-2) were held without a field goal over a 8:14 span, which was snapped on a basket by Milton Whelchel to cut the lead to 18-9. The Vikings would climb back into the game with a 9-4 run but the Tigers would take a 28-18 lead into halftime.
East Hall had a rough first half shooting the ball going just 1-for-9 from 3-point range and missed nine straight shots during its scoreless streak. The Tigers also outrebounded East Hall 13-9 in the first half and got several easy baskets after breaking the Vikings press.
Dawson County hit two of their first three 3-pointers but then went 0-for-4 the rest of the half.
The Tigers maintained a five to 10 point lead most of the third quarter and managed to push the lead to 42-28 late in the period.
But a double technical was called when Pain and East Hall's Tristan Cooper got tangled up, which would spark an East Hall run. Kyvon Davenport would convert two offensive rebounds into baskets and then dish out an assist as the Vikings trimmed the lead to 44-34 by the end of the quarter.
East Hall continued to chip away cutting the lead to 53-50 on a 3-pointer with 1:33 left. But Dawson County would close out the game on a 7-0 run while East Hall missed six 3-pointers in the final 90 seconds.
"Lucas played a tremendous game," Burgess said. "Our effort overall was unbelievable. It was probably our best defensive game of the season."
Pain finished with a game-high 20 points to go with four rebounds, three assists, and three steals to pace Dawson County. Cameron Millholland added 11 and Sam Muenchen had nine for the Tigers.
Davenport started slow but finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, seven offensive, for East Hall. Jacques Hopkins added 13 for the Vikings.
The Tigers, who have won five straight, have a chance to make a statement on Tuesday traveling to play Buford in an early battle for first place in the region.
"That will be a tough one on the road. That's why it's so important to win at home," Burgess said. "I'm sure East Hall will be waiting for us when we go there after this one."
East Hall will play host to West Hall Saturday in another key region matchup.
DAWSON COUNTY GIRLS 65
EAST HALL 42
Sheyenne Seabolt poured in 30 points and pulled down 15 rebounds to lead the Lady Tigers to the Region 7-AAA win.
Dawson County used its size and a tenacious press to open the game with a 15-0 run. The Lady Tigers (12-3, 3-1 Region 7-AAA) forced eight East Hall turnovers in the first five minutes, including four steals, and held the Lady Vikings to 0-for-8 from the field over the first seven minutes.
It wasn't until Jenny Edwards scored on a putback with 1:13 left in the first quarter that East Hall got on the board. Edwards' basket sparked a 7-0 East Hall run (6-6, 0-3) that was capped by a 3-pointer from Chelsea Dale to open the second quarter.
But Dawson County responded with 12-2 run behind Seabolt, who finished with 14 points and nine rebounds in the first half.
East Hall closed out the first half with a 6-1 run to pull within 28-15 by halftime.
The second half opened with a 9-3 Dawson County run as the Lady Tigers put the game out of reach. East Hall never got closer than 15 in the second half.
The Lady Tigers outrebounded East Hall 36-14 and forced 22 Lady Vikings turnovers for the game.
Jordan Moore added nine points for Dawson County.
Edwards finished with 12 points to lead East Hall. Jatasia Bailey had seven points and Dale finished with six for the Lady Vikings.
The loss snapped East Hall's five-game winning streak.