February 19, 2013

Dalton, North Murray girls basketball prepares for first round

As the Georgia High School Association’s girls state basketball tournament begins today, both Dalton and North Murray face a little déjà vu.

The Lady Catamounts, led by coach Jeff McKinney, play in the Class 4A first round tonight at 5:30 at Redan in DeKalb County. Dalton’s softball team, then coached by McKinney, faced Redan in a similar situation in the fall when the No. 3-seeded Lady Cats travelled to face the No. 2-seeded Lady Raiders.

North Murray travels to the “Granite Capital of the World” to take on Elbert County at 6 p.m. The two teams met last season in North Murray’s Christmas tournament, and the Lady Blue Devils won by eight over the Lady Mountaineers.

“They are very athletic, and they haven’t changed a whole lot,” North Murray coach Keith Robinette said. “We lost that game in the Christmas tournament, and we were 8-of-23 from the free throw line, so we sort of felt like we helped them out a little bit last time.”

During the softball season, Dalton was on the road at Redan, and the third-seeded Lady Cats swept past the Lady Raiders to the second round of state. But McKinney knows that Redan has a much tougher pedigree on the basketball court than on the diamond.

The Lady Raiders (25-2) won the state title in 2009, and both losses this season came at the hands of Region 6-4A champions Columbia, currently The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s top-ranked team in Class 4A. Dalton was a state finalist during the 2010-2011 season, but the Lady Cats missed the state tournament last year after Gilmer knocked them out in the region playoffs.

“They are a very, very athletic team, and they have had a lot of success,” McKinney said of Redan. “They are very quick. I can’t express how quick they are. They have three or four guards who can get up and down the floor. We are just going to have to do the fundamentals.”

Dalton (21-7) almost Region 7-4A champions River Ridge in the region semifinals and bounced back to dominate Pickens in Saturday’s consolation game. McKinney said his team is playing cleaner with fewer turnovers as it enters state.

“We have cut back a lot on the turnovers,” McKinney said. “Against Pickens, we only had seven. As a coach, I have had to deal with a higher number of turnovers than you like, but it creates more steals when you play an uptempo style. If we don’t make good passes and protect the ball against Redan, with all that quickness, it could be a long night."

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