ELLIJAY — Dawson County's Joakeim Celestin was unstoppable.
The senior guard scored 34 points, was 13-of-13 from the foul line and pulled six rebounds to lead the Tigers (21-7, Region 7-3A No. 3 seed) to a 59-50 win over White County (15-6, Region 7-3A No. 1 seed) to win the Region 7-3A title. It was the Tigers' fourth straight appearance in the title game, and their third straight win.
Celestin was also named the Region 7-3A Player of the Year after the game.
The Tigers will represent the region as a No. 1 seed in next week's Class 3A state tournament.
"I really liked our defense, especially in the last four minutes," Dawson County coach Todd Cottrell said. "We gave up a couple of easy ones but for the most part, we made them work to score. I'm just proud of them. They have persevered and overcome a lot of stuff. I'm proud to see them win."
The Warriors swept the Tigers in the two regular-season matchups, including a 20-point blowout in January. But on Tuesday, the Tigers found a way to block each punch the regular-season champs fired at them.
In the first quarter, the Warriors jumped out to a 13-8 lead, but the Tigers closed the opening period on a 6-0 run to take a 14-13 lead with Ty Whitmire nailing the go-ahead bucket at the horn.
The second quarter was a back-and-forth battle with Dawson County going to the locker room up, 29-25.
The Tigers opened the second half on a 6-0 spurt to surge ahead, 37-31 with 3:30 left in the third quarter, but White fought back with an 8-3 run to close the quarter down by one point, 40-39, and grabbed their first lead since the first half off two Silas Mulligan foul shots, 41-39, with 6:54 left in the game.
Dawson County, however, pushed the lead, 45-41 with 4:40 left, and outpaced the Warriors 15-9 in the final four minutes of the game.
The Tigers were perfect from the foul line, 23-of-23, and Celestin hit 7-of-7 free throws down the stretch in the final eight minutes.
up a 45-41 lead at 4:40, 5-0 run. Dawson finished the final 4:40 with a 15-9 run.
Jake Craft finished with 10 points for Dawson County. Jadon Yeh led the Warriors with 19 points and Mulligan added 12.
In the third-place game, Cherokee Bluff rallied and held off a late second-half run to beat North Hall, 78-65, to secure the No. 3 seed in the Class 3A tournament. North Hall will be the No. 4 seed.