Name a team that lost two 1,000-point scorers, yet became even better the next season…go ahead, we’ll wait for you to find one.
Dawson County went 19-10 last season, making the Sweet 16 with a talented group that included two such players who hit that milestone in Cullen Reed and Jeremiah Crumley. Those two seniors graduated, along with role players Ryan Gallenkamp, Kane Pelfrey, and Wyatt Hasse.
Despite losing those five players, the Tigers are better this year than they were before. That’s not a knock on that group…it’s simply a testament to the loaded roster in 2018-19. It starts with highly-recruited senior Luke Chism, who along with Ahmad Kamara (senior) and Eli Burruss (junior) came over from Dawson Christian Academy after the school closed. The roster also brought in junior Jasper Gibson, an electric guard who was Jefferson’s top scorer a year ago and came over after his dad moved to Dawson County for the AD job. Not to mention the Tigers brought back last year’s group consisting of Campbell Reed, Trey Pruitt, and others.
“It was kind of a new thing,” says Pittman of the reloading of the roster. “It’s really been about chemistry, sharing the ball, trusting each other, playing with new guys…meshing the parts together. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer.”
The Tigers are currently 8-2 overall and 3-1 in region play, falling only to #1-ranked GAC and early on to Cumberland Christian Academy in a tipoff championship game against a non-region foe.
Dawson County scores points, to be sure (73.4 pts/game). That’s second-best in the region. However, the defense is even bettter, allowing just 47.7 points per contest (best in 7-AAA).
“Defense is the difference in the game,” says Pittman, who points to a win on the road last week. We went on a 13-0 run. Some people would emphasize the 13, I would emphasize the 0.”
“I feel like we have a bunch of guys who can score in a lot of different ways,” states Gibson, who recorded his 1,000th career point early this season as just a junior. “But we try to start our offense on the defensive end.”
It hasn’t necessarily come easy though, for a group that had to learn a new system together, with players already in the system and taking in DCA transfers and a Jefferson player.
“It’s not that hard to block out [the hype],” says Chism on dealing with the pressure of being a team to beat. “We really just try to work hard every day in practice and not get caught up in it.”
The Tigers have rejuvenated under coach Chad Pittman, making the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and going 42-26 since his arrival. This season, Dawson seeks its first 20-win season since Thad Burgess’ ’13-14 team, which won 22 games. Burgess established the winning tradition that the Tigers still rest on, taking the boys to the Elite 8 in 2011-12 and producing nearly 200 wins in his time at Dawson.