Brooke Thomas did more than enough to fill a scoring gap for Dalton High’s girls basketball team Monday night.
The senior point guard finished with a game-high 20 points to lead host Dalton to a 59-42 victory against North Murray in the final game of the Lady Cats Invitational as Dalton finished 3-0 in its season-opening round-robin tournament for the second straight year.
North Murray went 2-1 in the event. Martin Luther King Jr. defeated Christian Heritage 60-39 in the night’s third-place game.
The Lady Catamounts’ Maddie Howell had 16 and 14 points through the first two games of the tournament — a 71-20 victory against Christian Heritage on Thursday and a 58-32 victory against MLK Jr. on Saturday — but was held to 10 against North Murray. Teammate Hannah Cox had eight points after having 12 and 10 in the first two games.
“I knew if Maddie was off, then it’s my time to step up,” Thomas said. “She’s our scorer. ... Hannah, early on, wasn’t hitting. So I had to step up and kind of direct them and keep them in it.”
So Thomas became the Lady Cats’ premier scoring threat, often beating Lady Mountaineers defenders off the dribble on the perimeter and finding herself open for mid-range jump shots. She scored 14 from the field and went 6-for-7 from the free-throw line.
“It’s the way they played her,” Dalton coach Jeff McKinney said. “They guarded Brooke close, which allowed her to get to the goal. She was making her shots tonight. They were leaving her open from about 10 or 15 feet, and she is deadly from there.”
Dalton scored the first six points of the game and led 13-5 after the first quarter. The lead stretched to 26-16 at halftime and 39-26 after three quarters.
North Murray could not establish its interior offense until the third quarter, which was too delayed for coach Keith Robinette’s liking.
“Their game plan definitely was to take our inside game away,” said Robinette, whose team was playing in the event for the first time. “I don’t think our posts wanted the ball very much in the first half just by their effort in posting up.”
Point guard Megan Pittman and post Erin Robinson each had eight points to lead North Murray. Robinson also collected six rebounds, while Hannah Hensley pulled down eight with six points.
Megan Spivey had a game-high nine rebounds — Cox led the Lady Cats with eight — as North Murray outrebounded Dalton 34-27.
“What I told the girls at halftime was I was most pleased we held them to just 16 points,” McKinney said. “They have some big girls and they attack the goal and we gave up 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, and you can’t do that. I think we gave up around 10 in the second half.”
It did not matter, though, as North Murray only made one first-half 3-pointer, from Kara Deal in the first quarter with the Lady Mountaineers still searching for their first basket.
“If teams are going to play us inside, we don’t have to hit all of them but we have to hit a few,” Robinette said. “Just to open some space up for us.”
Dalton held the Lady Cats Invitational for the first time in 2011. The Lady Cats went 3-0 by beating Cass, Roswell and Rome, and Thomas had 19 points in the latter win, scoring all but two points from the foul line.
• MLK Jr. 60, Christian Heritage 39: The Lady Lions (0-3) were tied at 27 at halftime after a Rebecca Leonard 3-pointer at the buzzer, but they could not stay with MLK Jr. (1-2) in the fourth quarter.
Christian Heritage only trailed 38-31 after the third but watched MLK Jr. go on a 13-2 run to begin the final period and stretch its lead to 51-33.
“Four complete quarters is what we’ve got to play,” Christian Heritage coach Heather Lowery said. “In the first half, we missed 10 layups. At least five were wide open. In the third quarter, we missed at least four.”
Leonard finished with 18 points, one fewer than MLK Jr.’s Stephanie Silavong, while teammates Jordan Suddath and Ransley Defoor each had six points.
The tournament allowed Christian Heritage, a Class A team playing GHSA competition for the first time, to face teams from 3A (North Murray), 4A (Dalton) and 5A (MLK Jr.).
“It’s our youngness that we’re trying to overcome,” Lowery said. “This has been great for us. We’ve got to go back and work this next week. This will get us better and get us ready to start when we come back and play Nov. 30 at Coahulla Creek.”