Dalton State College’s basketball team is off to a hot start with an 8-1 record in its return to the court as the program’s signature sport. And even after Friday’s 85-61 exhibition loss to Alabama’s Jacksonville State, the buzz around the program is growing as the Roadrunners prepare to host Auburn-Montgomery at the trade center Tuesday night.
But a big part of the crowd expected for the game will be there cheering on the visiting Warhawks — or more likely, cheering on a returning hometown product.
Former Dalton High School standout Tristen Harrell — The Daily Citizen’s 2012 All-Area Basketball Player of the Year — comes home for his first collegiate game in Dalton.
For recently elected Dalton Public Schools board member Steve Laird, he is excited to get to see the successful Dalton State team, but he is even more excited to see a player he has mentored for the last few years.
“I hope we have a great turnout for both the Roadrunners and for Tristen,” Laird said. “I am wearing orange, though. I may wear my Roadrunners hat, but I will have on my orange shirt. This is a classic personal challenge where you are excited to see the Road-runners play, but you are even more excited to see someone you think of as family.”
For Harrell and the Warhawks, the season has been a rough one. Auburn-Montgomery is 2-4 on the year and 1-2 in the Southern States Athletic Conference. Like Dalton State, Auburn-Montgomery is a NAIA member school.
Harrell — a sophomore — has played in all six games and started in three of them. He is averaging 3.3 points per game and is leading the team in 3-point shooting at 55.6 percent. In his senior year at Dalton, Harrell led the Catamounts to the second round of the state tournament before falling to eventual state champions Columbia.
“I and really excited to see Tristen get a chance to come back home and see him play,” Laird said. “I know the (Dalton High boys basketball) team is going to be at the game, and I know some others who will be there to see him, so he ought to have some people there cheering him on.”
Tuesday night’s game is at 7 p.m.
• If variety is the spice of life, then this week’s Southeast Whitfield Hoopfest is like the revolving rack you can buy at Target.
Play begins in the tournament on Tuesday and will continue Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with plenty of teams and plenty of variety. Darlington, Excel Christian, Bremen, Heritage-Catoosa, North Murray, Woodland-Bartown, East Paulding, Rideland, Dade County and host Southeast are all scheduled to have teams playing in the tournament.
Southeast’s girls will play in the featured game of Tuesday’s action, taking on Excel Christian at 7 p.m. Games on Wednesday start at 4 p.m. with the Southeast boys taking on East Paulding in the 8:30 nightcap. Play on Friday begins at 11:30 a.m. and Saturday’s day at the gym starts at 10 a.m.
The complete tournament schedule can be found in the Prep Schedule on page 3B.
• This has to be a tough week for a high school wrestler.
While coaches are talking about getting down to weight for the stretch run of the season later, Grandma brings out an extra dish of her broccoli and cheese casserole, and who can turn down another helping of Aunt Helen’s banana pudding?
It all just seems cruel for these guys.
Prep grapplers will get a chance to work up an appetite on Wednesday at the Coahulla Creek Thanksgiving Duals. Dalton, Murray County, North Murray, Northwest and the host Colts will all be in action. The real test will come on Saturday, and coaches will be able to tell who put a little too much dressing to go along with the turkey. Dalton, Morris Innovative, Northwest and Southeast will be competing at the Heritage-Catoosa Thanksgiving Duals.
• Area runners can feel a little better about themselves heading into dinner on Thursday by taking part in the Turkey Trail Trot at Raisin Woods off Brooker Road in Whitfield County. Sponsored by the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department, the event is free, and participants can choose either a 4.6-mile run or a 1-mile walk/run. Check-in is at 8 a.m., with the race at 8:30. To register, visit mydprd.com or sign up on site. The first 50 people to register will receive a free T-shirt.
Canned goods are welcomed and will be donated to a local food bank.
• It is also time to get ready for the 11th annual Silver Bell Sprint on Dec. 6 in downtown Dalton.
The Sprint will include a 5K (3.1-mile) run/walk and a 1-mile fun run/walk. Registration begins at 4:30 p.m. at the City Park Elementary School gymnasium, with the fun run at 6 and the 5K at 7. Advance registration is available at active.com. Through today, the fees for either race are $20 for 18 years of age or older and $13 for 17 years and younger. The prices increase to $22 and $15 thereafter. The first 500 entrants will receive a long-sleeve T-shirt and goody bag, and all runners will receive silver bells for their shoes.