Sports

December 21, 2012

First and foremost

Dalton, Murray County and Northwest Whitfield win to start hoops tourney

CHATSWORTH — Whether it was the effects of the first full day of a two-week holiday break or something else, Dalton High’s boys basketball team looked underwhelming in the first half against Heritage-Catoosa on Thursday.

But from the first play, the second half was much different for the Catamounts.

Trailing at halftime, they turned the game around and rolled 77-63 against the Generals on the opening day of the Farm Bureau Christmas Classic at Murray County High’s Kenneth Ross Gymnasium.

In Thursday’s other two games at the round robin-style event — which continues today and finishes Saturday — Northwest Whitfield routed the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences 60-39 and the host Indians defeated Coahulla Creek 66-38.

Against Dalton (6-1), the Generals (4-6) led 31-30 halfway through the game thanks to a 13-6 run to close the second quarter, the cap to a half of basketball Cats coach Mike Duffie wanted to erase. He was frustrated enough to ask how his players prepared for the game the night before.

“It looked like the holiday blues, didn’t it?” Duffie asked rhetorically. “I (went) in at halftime and take a poll of bedtimes. When they’re all after midnight, we had to have a talk about that. That’s part of the sacrifice you make in playing. Your body clock can’t stay up until 2 in the morning and get up at noon.”

His team got the message.

Alexis Bautista, who had a game-high 29 points, scored and was fouled on the first possession of the third quarter. The free throw gave Dalton a two-point lead, one it wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.

Demond Rucker scored on the Cats’ next possession and Jackson Dinges followed with a jumper. Heritage missed a 3-pointer on each of its first three possessions, and a 37-31 Cats lead forced a Generals timeout.

“Things were off to the races from there,” said Duffie, whose team led 55-45 after three quarters and in the fourth period stretched its edge to as many as 19 points.

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