By Chris Whitfield
CHATSWORTH — Coming off a night in which his team missed 12 free throws and lost by a basket, Dalton girls coach Jeff McKinney obviously was hoping for a fast start Wednesday against unbeaten Sonoraville.
The start was fast for Dalton.
The rest of the game wasn’t.
Sonoraville topped the Lady Catamounts 64-46 in an opening-round matchup on the second day of North Murray’s Mistletoe Mad-ness tournament at Mountaineer Gymnasium.
Dalton (9-3) jumped out to a 10-2 lead to open the game, but the Lady Phoenix responded with a 21-2 run that started near the end of the first quarter and ended midway through the second. Sonoraville (9-0) never led by fewer than 10 points after midway through the third quarter, and after the game McKinney said he is ready for his players to do some soul searching.
“Without a doubt, it is time,” he said. “Our effort is just not there. Everyone is standing around looking for someone else to do it for them. Very seldom have I come out of a dressing room and been disappointed by the effort. When you do that, you aren’t going to win many games.”
The Lady Cats lost 48-46 on Tuesday at Pickens, and Wednesday marked exactly a year since they last lost back-to-back games. The Lady Cats fell 65-60 to Sonoraville and 51-43 to Elbert County on Dec. 17 and 19, 2011, with the latter loss also coming at Mistletoe Madness.
Dalton’s other loss this year came in a 15-point defeat at Murray County on Dec. 1.
The Lady Cats drop into the consolation bracket at the eight-team girls tournament, and they’ll play next at 4 p.m. Friday against Gilmer, which lost to Calhoun on Wednesday. Sonoraville faces Calhoun at 7 p.m. Friday.
Dalton senior guard Maddie Howell led all scorers with 19 points. But she was the only Lady Cat in double figures — none of her teammates had more than five points — and her time was limited because she is still suffering the effects of a layoff because of an ankle injury.
“We have to play harder or we are in for some long winter months,” said McKinney, whose team went undefeated in sub-region play last season but lost its first game at the region tournament and missed out on the state playoffs a year after playing for the Class 3A title.
Coincidentally, that loss was to Gilmer, their next opponent.
Against Sonoraville, the Lady Cats took their early eight-point lead on a putback basket by Howell before the Lady Phoenix finally arose.
A second-chance bucket from guard Payton Smith started the run as Sonoraville was finally able to pound the ball inside to 6-foot- 3-inch center Carrie Cheeks. Cheeks had seven points in the run, while Smith keyed a defensive press that bothered Dalton and led to easy points off of steals.
By the time Howell scored off an offensive rebound with 5:41 left in the second quarter, Sonoraville led 25-14. Dalton was able to chip away some, though, and Maci Noles hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the half with the Lady Phoenix up 35-27.
Dalton got even closer when Sarah Stinnett scored on a press breaker to start the second half, but a 6-0 spurt by Sonoraville pushed its lead back to double digits, and the Lady Cats would get no closer the rest of the way.
Carrie Cheeks led three Sonoraville scorers in double figures with 17 points. Becca Cheeks added 14 and Payton Smith chipped in 11.
In Wednesday’s other tournament action, Polk County (Tenn.) beat Sonora-ville 46-30 in a boys pool play matchup.
Today’s schedule is made up of two girls games — Coahulla Creek versus Christian Heritage in consolation bracket play at 4 p.m. and Polk County versus North Murray in a championship semifinal at 7 — and a pair of boys pool play games, with Polk County facing Gilmer at 5:30 and North Murray facing Calhoun at 8:30.
Action will continue Friday, with place games set for Saturday.
• The Farm Bureau Christmas Classic, a six-team round robin-style event for boys basketball hosted by Murray County, begins today and will include three local schools.
On today’s schedule is Dalton versus Coahulla Creek at 4:30 p.m., Northwest Whitfield versus Heritage-Catoosa at 6 and the host Indians versus Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences at 7:30. The event will continue Friday and finish Saturday.
• Cass boys 73, Southeast Whitfield 45: In a late result from Tuesday, Bryce Middlebrooks led the Raiders (1-10) in the loss with 18 points on six second-half 3-pointers, while Chaz Payne finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds.
• In a late result from Tuesday, Coahulla Creek’s boys and girls were competitive but suffered a pair of losses at Calhoun.
In the girls meet, Calhoun won 80-52, but the Lady Colts had several first-place finishes, including two individual wins each for Elizabeth Holcomb and Kathryn Stafford.
Holcomb took first in both the 200-yard freestyle in 2 minutes, 44.51 seconds and the 200 individual medley at 3:20.55, while Stafford won the 500 freestyle (6:10.44) and 100 backstroke (1:12.40). Both were members of the winning 200 freestyle relay team (2:11.09), which also included Madison Zerbe and Abbi Tate.
Calhoun won the boys meet 77-50. The Colts’ lone first-place finish was in the 200 freestyle relay as Brady Mull, Michael Witten, Evan Wright and Jake Mathis finished in 2:31.12.