Many of the local programs for wrestling and boys/girls basketball presented thrills and memories to last a lifetime. It’s no easy task, but we present our BLITZ 2018-19 Winter Sports Teams of the Year.
BOYS BASKETBALL – DAWSON COUNTY TIGERS
There’s not much argument here. The Tigers came into the season with some glaring holes initially, losing two 1,000-point scorers. However, the closing of nearby Dawson Christian Academy meant riches flowed to Dawson County High School. Luke Chism, Ahmad Kamara, Eli Burruss, and others filled the roster. And don’t forget junior transfer Jasper Gibson from Jefferson.
Dawson County faced a little learning curve early with the guys getting used to playing together, but coach Chad Pittman got his guys to gel together fairly quickly, and it showed. The Tigers played with unmatched passion and intensity, and started to peak at the perfect time, winning 11 straight before the final loss. During the region 7-AAA tournament, they rolled into the finals against powerhouse, defending state champs, #1-ranked GAC. The Tigers took care of business with arguably the biggest win in school history.
Dawson County then rolled through the 3A playoffs, starting with a blasting of Ringgold and Westminster, both blowouts. At-large Cinderella Franklin County gave them a scare in the Elite 8, but in front of the home crowd for the final time, the Tigers came away with a 60-58 monumental win that propelled them into the Final Four for the first time in school history.
The Tigers fell to Hart County in the semifinals, but finished with a school-record 27 wins, a Region 7-AAA Championship, #2 state ranking, and the Final Four trip. Dawson County’s senior group of Chism, Kamara, and Trey Pruitt raised the bar higher than ever.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Stephens County (Sweet 16) & Banks County (Rnd 1)
GIRLS BASKETBALL – RABUN COUNTY LADY WILDCATS
The Lady Cats and coach DeeDee Dillard didn’t end the season the way they wanted to, falling in the quarterfinals on the home court, but it was an unforgettable season in many ways. The girls won 28 games and lost just twice, and the final loss snapped a 26-game winning streak.
This included a perfect 14-0 record in region play on the way to yet another Region 8-AA title, a #2 state ranking, and a deep playoff run. The offense and defense were among the best in Class 2A, and senior Brooke Henricks and junior Laken Stiles stepped up in a big way with the absence throughout the season of All-State senior guard Georgia Stockton, who battled nagging injuries all year and was limited in playing time.
Stockton, a Presbyterian signee, played sparingly for much of the season and was held out for quite a few games, but returned for the playoff run. Junior Destiny Deetz and senior Kaitlin Coleman also had big seasons, and the senior class left some huge holes to fill for next season. Fortunately, Dillard will return Stiles and Deetz to lead the way, as well as freshman standout Sophie Woodard.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Lumpkin County (most wins in nearly 20 years), Dawson County (Elite 8; many upset road wins); Banks County (Sweet 16; 5th straight playoff run), Tallulah Falls (Sweet 16; most wins/deepest run ever), Towns County (Sweet 16; first playoff appearance in 5 years), Jefferson (Elite 8), White County (Rnd 1)
WRESTLING – COMMERCE TIGERS
What else is new? The Commerce Tigers have a dynasty that now includes six consecutive state championships in both duals and traditional, which comes up to a dozen titles. There are too many individuals to list all of them out, but Tucker Flint and Elijah Barnes both nabbed individual titles, and five other Tigers were runner-up.
Coach Kendall Love has a great thing going in Commerce, and there’s no end in sight for the Tigers’ dynasty.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Jefferson (State Title Duals, 3rd Traditional), Lumpkin (5th in Duals & Trad)