By Jeff Rancudo
You don’t have to convince Dalton High School boys basketball coach Mike Duffie that right about now — as the regular season winds down — is a great time to see just how much depth his squad has and how well they are playing.
Dalton wore down a scrappy LaFayette squad Friday night for a 71-62 win at The Cats Den. The effort was punctuated by a 17-6 third-quarter run that was one of the reasons Duffie was smiling after the game.
“Our depth beat them,” said Duffie, whose squad improved to 15-5 overall and 6-1 in Sub-region 7B-4A. “The middle of the third quarter, it showed up. I think (the LaFayette players’) legs were tired and it showed on their shots.”
The win capped a sweep for Dalton as the Lady Cats came from behind for a 58-54 victory earlier in the night.
The LaFayette boys (13-7, 5-3) answered every Dalton push and stuck close as the Cats held just a 34-33 lead near the end of the second quarter.
Maybe the Ramblers should’ve seen the tidal wave coming.
Cats forward Emier Bowman, who scored 19 points with 15 rebounds and four blocks in the game, got the momentum going on the final play before halftime. He floated across the lane and tipped in a Jeffrey Brown miss, then opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer and consecutive layups to push Dalton ahead 43-39.
Midway through the third quarter, LaFayette was tiring, having chased Dalton’s guard-led scoring and ball-movement onslaught for a full half.
After Cats guard Braxton Thomas — who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds — scored 10 first-half points, fellow guard Brown took his turn to essentially put the game away. Thomas drained a 3-pointer for a 46-41 lead, and Brown then stole the ball from the Ramblers and hit a layup as well as 2 of 4 free throw attempts.
Brown then had another steal and passed to Thomas, who was fouled and hit two free throws for a 52-41 lead.
Brown finished with 11 points and five assists and was crucial to Dalton’s fast-break attack. His penetration and aggressiveness got Bowman going as well as guard Chris Childs, who scored 12 points.
The win puts the Cats in control of their destiny.
“If we win four in a row, we’re sub-region champs,” Duffie said. “It’s about who wants it the most this time of year.”
Lance Estus paced the Ramblers with 22 points.
• Dalton girls 58, LaFayette 54: The Lady Cats (10-10, 3-4) trailed the entire third quarter and even fell behind 52-42 in the final period.
But then Dalton exploded for a 15-0 run, showing the explosiveness that first-year coach Lacie Coquerille knows has been there all season.
“I’ve talked about it with the girls all season that we had fight in us,” Coquerille said. “Now, I’m excited to see it.”
Freshman Bowen Land, who led Dalton’s scoring with 14 points, ignited the winning push as she hit a layup to tie the game at 54 with 1:17 left, then made a steal and passed to Mia Smith for a layup and a 56-54 lead. Land then scored the game’s final points on a layup.
Dalton’s team concept drove the comeback against LaFayette (6-12, 1-7) as Sarah Hartshorn scored three of her 12 points in the final push, while Mia Smith hit four free throws and Gabby Wright sank a layup as Dalton pulled away late.
For the game, Callie Smith scored 13 points and pulled down 16 rebounds for Dalton, while Hannah Cox had 14 rebounds to go with four points.
Shelby Narmore led LaFayette with 14 points.
• Calhoun boys 88, Morris Innovative 18: Justin Scott scored 12 points for the Tigers (0-22, 0-13 Region 7-2A), who trailed 56-4 at halftime in the road loss.
• Northwest junior varsity girls 49, Southeast 27: Kylee Ward’s 16-point performance paced the Lady Bruins as they finished their 15-game schedule undefeated.
Lindsey Roberts added 11 points and Halle Ingle chipped in seven for Northwest, which is coached by Chris Woods.
“They’re really talented,” Woods said. “It’s a really good group of girls, and I think practicing with the varsity every day and getting to go against that level of talent makes them that much better even.”
Swimming and diving
• Dalton’s boys and Northwest Whitfield’s girls celebrated with wins on senior night in a three-school meet that also included Chattanooga’s Notre Dame. All three schools celebrated senior night in the meet held at Dalton.
The Cats finished with 141 points to win the boys meet — ahead of Northwest’s 120 and Notre Dame’s 22 — while the Lady Bruins won with 114, ahead of the Lady Cats (94) and Notre Dame (92).
Individual winners for Dalton’s boys were Richard Austin (100 breaststroke, 1:09.82), Sean Lee (100 freestyle, 53.94), Taylor Mathis (200-yard freestyle, 1 minute, 27.79 seconds), Matthew Pipkin (50 freestyle, 23.36) and Ethan Young (200 individual medley, 2:08.33; 100 backstroke, 56.27).
The Cats also swept relay competition, taking the 200 freestyle (Lee, Mathis, Tanner Storey, Young; 1:36.04), 400 freestyle (Austin McCanless, Isaiah Preston, Storey, Chase Todd; 4:16.36) and 200 medley (Austin, Mathis, Luis Rosales, Young; 1:47.86).
Individual winners for the Lady Cats were Ninive Arriola (100 backstroke, 1:08.57), Romina Mendoza (200 individual medley, 2:40) and Oli Valdez (500 freestyle, 6:15.50).
Individual winners for the Northwest girls were Marlee Bingham (50 freestyle, 28.65), Chae Cunningham (1-meter diving, 164.20) and Daniela Hannah (100 breaststroke, 1:22.61). The team of Bingham, Ana Hannah, Dala Hufstetler and Macie Maret won the 400 freestyle relay in 4:22.27.
Winning for the Bruins was Triston Smith (1-meter diving, 197.50).