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High school basketball: Cherokee Bluff girls overcome slow start to upset Dawson County at home on senior night
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Cherokee Bluff's Timber Gaither shoots over multiple Dawson County defenders during the game on Tuesday, Jan. 28 at Cherokee Bluff High School in Flowery Branch. - photo by Nathan Berg

The Cherokee Bluff girls basketball team got off to a bit of a rocky start Tuesday evening against Dawson County. But a pair of dominant stretches in the second and fourth quarters were enough for the Lady Bears (5-19, 2-9 Region 7-3A) to fight their way to an upset victory over the visiting Lady Tigers on senior night, 56-53. 

Timber Gaither led the way for Cherokee Bluff with 17 points, while the team’s lone senior Madi Phillips scored 12 and grabbed a couple of key rebounds to help power the Lady Bears to the win. 

“We played a really tough schedule in the hopes that it would pay off about this time of year, so I’m just really proud of them and their effort,” Cherokee Bluff coach Lindsay Justice said after the game. “They locked in defensively and shared the basketball. I’m just super proud of our kids.”

Dawson County got off to the quicker start between the teams, rattling off a 9-2 run early in the first quarter as the Lady Bears struggled to find their footing on either side of the court. A pair of 3-pointers from Finley Millwood and Taylor Click were all that kept Cherokee Bluff close eight minutes into the game. 

But the home team flipped a switch in the second frame, exploding at the midpoint of the period with a 10-0 run that gave the Lady Bears their first lead of the night. Defensively, Cherokee Bluff was even better, holding Dawson County to just 4 points in the quarter and allowing only one made basket over the entire eight-minute span. 

A 3-point play from Phillips with just 12 seconds remaining until halftime put the Lady Bears on top by 4 going into the break. 

The teams played relatively even basketball throughout the third quarter — with Cherokee Bluff doing most of its damage at the free throw line and Dawson County benefiting from a trio of Madison Anglin 3s. 

The Lady Tigers carried an improved offensive effort into the start of the fourth quarter, starting the frame off with a 10-4 run that put them back in front briefly, but the Lady Bears played their best with their backs against the wall. 

From the four-minute mark until less than a 60 seconds remaining, Cherokee Bluff kept Dawson County off the scoreboard entirely, and went 3-of-5 at the free throw line as part of a 9-0 spurt to go on top by multiple possessions late.

“Our youth has shown a little bit in close games when we didn’t know how to finish,” Justice said. “We didn’t understand time and score and things like that. I’m really proud of them for finishing.”

Two free throws and another Anglin 3 briefly cut the Lady Bear lead to just a point, but a clutch, 2-for-2 trip to the charity stripe from Alexis Mize put Cherokee Bluff back on top by 3, and Anglin’s final attempt before the buzzer missed its mark.  

Following the win, Cherokee Bluff will turn its attention to the regular season finale Friday night against region rival North Hall ahead of next week’s Region 7-3A tournament.

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Cherokee Bluff's Bosko Norman dribbles past a pair of Dawson County defenders during the game on Tuesday, Jan. 28 at Cherokee Bluff High School in Flowery Branch. - photo by Nathan Berg

DAWSON COUNTY BOYS 67, CHEROKEE BLUFF 55: Seniors Griffin Neville and Jason Evrett scored 15 and 13 points, respectively, to lead the Bears on senior night, but the home team could not overcome a slow start in Friday’s loss to the Tigers. 

Dawson County scored the first 7 points and the last 7 points of the opening quarter en route to taking a 21-13 lead eight minutes in. The Tigers could not extend the advantage much throughout the game, but neither could Cherokee Bluff (15-9, 7-4) close the gap. Trailing by 13 early in the fourth frame, the Bears rode the momentum of a tough 3-point play from Jacob Carlson to score 6 straight and get to within two possessions of the lead. But Dawson County scored the next 7 points to bury the comeback attempt and finish off the season sweep of Cherokee Bluff. The defeat snaps what had been a five-game win streak for the Bears.

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