RABBITTOWN — In the end, it was just too much Dawson County firepower.
Jasper Gibson led four Tigers in double figure scoring as they ran out to a big first half lead over Cherokee Bluff and held off a late comeback in a 70-62 win in the semifinals of the Region 7-3A tournament Friday night at the East Hall gym.
Dawson County (24-2) now moves into the finals and will take on Greater Atlanta Christian in a repeat of last year’s championship game, won by the Tigers. They also beat the Spartans twice during the regular season.
“I expect it to be a good game,” Dawson County coach Eric Herrick said. “The key will be for us to just play our style and not worry about too many other things.”
Gibson poured in 24 points to go with 5 assists and 4 rebounds while Mason Barnes added 18 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds for Dawson County. Eli Burruss had a double-double with 13 points, 11 boards, and Campbell Reed chipped in with 11 points as the Bears defense could not slow down the wave of shooters.
“That’s our game,” Herrick said. “We made a lot of shots early to get us going. When we shoot like that we’re tough to beat.
“But I thought the big thing was that we did a great job rebounding the ball to not let them get back in it until late. That was a big focus for us coming into this.”
The Tigers never trailed as Reed drained a long 3-pointer just moments into the contest. Gibson capped a quick 8-1 start with a 3-pointer of his own.
Cherokee Bluff answered with a 12-7 spurt to get within 15-13 on a Bosko Norman steal and layup with 1:15 left in the first quarter. But Dawson County answered back with a 16-6 run ignited by another Reed trey and capped by another Gibson 3-pointer midway through the second. The Tigers’ biggest lead in the half came on a Barnes 3-pointer for a 38-21 lead and they took a 42-27 lead into the intermission.
The Bears made one more push to open the third quarter pulling within 43-33 on a pair of Norman free throws. But a 12-1 run by the Tigers to close out the period put the game out of reach.
Cherokee Bluff did outscored Dawson County 28-15 in the final period but scored 9 points in the final minute to make it closer than it was. Norman finished with 18 points to lead the Bears. Griffin Neville had 12 points and Jason Evrett added 8 for Cherokee Bluff. The Bears will take on North Hall for the No. 3 seed.
NORTH HALL GIRLS 72,
DAWSON COUNTY 51
The North Hall girls used a 32-5 run in the first half to erase an early Dawson County lead en route to a 72-51 victory Friday in the Region 7-3A semifinals at the East Hall gym.
The Lady Trojans (19-8) trailed 5-2 after a quick start by the Lady Tigers (14-12) a three-point play from Grace Hollifield followed by a long Hollifield 3-pointer gave North Hall a 10-5 lead and they never trailed again.
North Hall took a 13-8 lead into the second quarter and then exploded for a 17-0 run to blow it open. Hollifield added another 3-pointer while Ansley Smallwood scored eight straight points at one stretch.
North Hall coach Kristi House said as Hollifield goes, her group is ready to follow.
“When Grace is on like that it definitely makes things easier for us,” House said. “We all love watching her shoot. But all the seniors have been the big spark for us lately.”
The Lady Trojans defense was also dominating holding Dawson County to just five points in the second quarter behind the tenacious Macie Gillespie, who finished with 4 steals to go with 9 assists, while taking a 38-13 advantage into the intermission.
North Hall pushed its lead to as many as 29 in the third quarter but Dawson County chipped away in the second half getting to within 14 points on three occasions but no closer.
Hollifield finished with a game-high 25 points and 5 rebounds for North Hall. Smallwood recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Lauren Swanson added 16 points and 6 rebounds for the Lady Trojans.
Dawson County was paced by Sophia D’Oliveira with 20 points. Maddie Anglin added 14 points and Marlie Townley had 10 points for the Lady Tigers.
North Hall, now secure with at least one home playoff game in the state playoffs, will take on Greater Atlanta Christian for the region title for a second consecutive season.
“It’s always good to back to the finals, that was a goal for the seniors, and getting to play at home for us is big,” House said. “It should be other tough game (with GAC). We’ll have to limit our turnovers but the belief for us is there.”
GAC BOYS 61,
NORTH HALL 51
It was a tale of two halves for the North Hall boys Friday in the Region 7-3A semifinals against Greater Atlanta Christian.
The Trojans, behind a 14-point second quarter from Clark Howell, poured in 7 3-pointers in the first 16 minutes while building a 34-25 halftime lead. They had just one in the second half, however, and scored just 6 points in a pivotal third quarter as the Spartans rallied for the win to advance to Saturday’s finals.
It also didn’t help that the Spartans were a blistering 20-of-23 from the free throw line, including hitting 10-of-12 in the fourth quarter, while North Hall was just 5-of-8 from the line for the game.
“That’s just part of basketball,” North Hall coach Tyler Sanders said about the free throw disparity. “Basically the difference was that we made a bunch of shots in the first half and didn’t hit any in the second half. But I thought we played well against a really talented team.”
The first half could not have gone much better for the Trojans (18-9) other than perhaps building an even bigger first half lead. The teams traded the lead seven times before North Hall exploded for a 15-2 run, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Howell for a 30-19 lead.
A Howell basket off a J.T. Fair assist gave the Trojans their big halftime advantage. But GAC, after a Howell basket to open the third quarter, closed the gap with an 8-0 run and then took a 42-40 lead at the end the third on basket by Josh Fulton to finish off a 17-6 period.
North Hall answered that with a 6-0 run to open the fourth quarter for a 46-44 lead but GAC held the Trojans to just five points over the final 5:07 to pull away for the victory.
“They have a great collection talent and you can’t go cold like we did in the second half,” Sanders said. “But again I feel like we’re playing well right now so we’ll just get ready for the third place game against another really good team.”
Howell finished with 20 points for North Hall, which matched his combined season totals against the Spartans in their first two meetings. Samir Huerte added 11 points on three 3-pointers for the Trojans.
Cliff Baskerville poured in 20 points for GAC, including hitting 5-of-6 free throws in the final 40 seconds to help seal the win. LaMarr Randolph had 11 points for the Spartans.