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.
“Lately we’ve been going through some four- or five-minute stretches where we don’t score,” Heritage coach Kevin Terry said. “Then our opponents go on a run.”
It was Heritage making the runs early in the game.
“We looked like we were out of synch,” Duffie said. “Groggy or lethargic is the best word for the first half.”
Heritage led 12-10 halfway through the opening quarter before scoring six straight points for its biggest advantage. Bautista’s jumper for the Cats sparked a 14-0 run, which started with around two minutes left in the first quarter and ended when Tyler McConey scored for the Generals. The spurt was the best Dalton looked in the half.
Bautista finished 13-for-16 from the field, while Rico Mears had 16 points and eight rebounds and Rucker tallied 13 points and six rebounds.
The Generals’ Cameron Sterlin had a team-high 26 points, with Cody Sanders’ 14 following.
• Northwest 60, CSAS 39: The Bruins (8-1) did the opposite of the Cats and played their best basketball from the beginning.
Northwest scored 13 of the game’s first 15 points. The Bruins led 23-11 after one quarter and 42-24 at halftime. CSAS (4-3) only had one player score in double figures as Patrick Taylor finished with 11 points.
“I knew (CSAS) would be quick and athletic,” Northwest coach Ryan Richards said, “but I think we defended them really well. I think just getting off to a quick start was the difference in the game, because they never really recovered from it.”
O’Shea Hill had a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, with Tanner Quarles adding 11 points and making three of Northwest’s four 3-pointers. The Bruins constantly changed from a fast-paced transition offense to a slower tempo.
“I think that’s been the strength of our team,” Richards said. “We’ve been flexible enough to win a couple different ways.”
• Murray County 66, Coahulla Creek 38: A quick Indians run right at the end of the first half changed this game from competitive to a rout.
With the Colts (0-8) trailing 27-21, less than two minutes to go in the second quarter and both Cordarius Tarver and Jordan Tant on the bench in foul trouble, the Indians (5-6) scored seven unanswered points to take a double-digit halftime lead.
Murray County led 52-29 after three quarters.
“We had some kids in foul trouble,” Coahulla Creek coach Matthew Queener said, “and we had to sub in right at the end of the first half. We had several turnovers there. After that we just couldn’t come back and match their intensity.”
Murray County only led 12-9 after the first quarter and let Coahulla Creek trim a 21-11 deficit to 24-19 midway through the second.
“I thought we came out tentative,” Indians coach Greg Linder said. “I didn’t think we rebounded well. They had 16 offensive rebounds, by our stats. Our saving grace was on the (offensive) end. I thought we executed really well.”
Brady Todd’s 16 points led the execution, with Matthew Corbin adding 13.
Tarver led the Colts with 13 points and Taylor Poteet added nine.
On the schedule today is Dalton versus Coahulla Creek at 4:30 p.m., Northwest versus Heritage-Catoosa at 6 and Murray County versus CSAS at 7:30.