Coming off a disappointing end to last season, Dalton High’s girls basketball team was excited for “a new start” in Thursday’s season opener and it showed.
Christian Heritage, as coach Heather Lowery said, looked “stunned” by what the Lady Catamounts did.
In a night of season openers, host Dalton accelerated from the tipoff to trounce the Lady Lions 71-20 in the Lady Cats Invitational. North Murray routed Atlanta’s Martin Luther King Jr. 60-26 in the night’s first game.
Dalton’s early runs were more than enough cushion. The Lady Cats scored the first 12 points of the game and held a 20-3 lead after the first quarter. The runs continued, and the Dalton lead escalated to 40-10 and 64-11 after the second and third quarters
Maddie Howell led the way with 14 points, including two 3-pointers.
“It’s a new start,” the senior forward said. “It’s a good confidence booster for us.”
Hannah Cox added 10 points, while Brooke Thomas had eight points and six assists. Sarah Hartshorn added 10 points off the bench, while guard Sarah Stinnett pressured Christian Heritage all night on the perimeter and collected six steals.
“The girls were excited about playing,” Lady Cats coach Jeff McKinney said.
“It was our first game. We were playing Christian Heritage. It was on our home court. We didn’t do some things right, but we had enough turnovers to get enough easy shots. When you have enough easy shots, your shooting gets a lot better.”
For the Lady Lions, it was a rough beginning to the post-Maggie Peeples era. The 2012 Christian Heritage graduate was The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Player of the Year last season and helped lead the Lady Lions to the GISA Class 2A semifinals.
“I was pleased we had a little more effort in the second half,” Christian Heritage coach Heather Lowery said. “The first half we seemed stunned. We’re better than that.”
Senior Rebecca Leonard, playing point guard and slotted to be a top scorer for the Lady Lions, scored seven points and had four steals. Sarah Massengale led the team with eight points, with six coming in the fourth quarter. Aside from Massengale and Leonard, nothing seemed to work on offense for Christian Heritage.
“We just seemed so stagnant,” Lowery said. “We’ve got to do better job of wanting to get the ball and wanting to score. It was kind of like we were, I don’t know. I haven’t figured that out yet.”
McKinney — whose team went undefeated in sub-region play last season before losing at the region tournament to miss the state playoffs — saw things his team needs to figure out, too.
“We made 18 turnovers,” he said. “We didn’t block out real well. Defensively, we like to play real hard-pressure defense. We gave them too much of a comfort zone. ... Sarah (Stinnett) did a good job defensively. As a group, I expect more.”
• North Murray girls 60, MLK Jr. 26: With North Murray leading 16-10 after the first quarter, Abigail Bradley knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers in a matter of seconds to begin the Lady Mountaineers’ rout.
“She can do it,” North Murray coach Keith Robinette said. “We tried running a play to her right after that to get her another 3-pointer. We screened the wrong kid. ... Any time we get a kid making one or two, we’d like to get it to her just to see.”
After holding a 41-12 lead at halftime, the Lady Mountaineers stretched it to 55-17 before giving younger players some time on the court.
“We took care of the ball, No. 1,” Robinette said. “If you do that, then you’ll have the opportunity to get some shots. We did a good job containing ball handlers. They have two guards who are quick. (Kaylyn Guthrie), she did not have a great game, but (Steph-anie Silavong) can go.”
North Murray’s scoring was spread throughout the stat sheet. Bradley finished with nine points, Grace Phillips added eight, Erin Robinson and Kara Deal each had seven and Taryn Thom-as chipped in six.
“I’m excited,” Robinette said. “We’re picky, but I’m pleased.”