TUNNEL HILL —
Tevin McDaniel had two chances with the ball in his hands to solidify a win for Northwest Whitfield’s boys basketball team Friday. He missed both.
With the ball out of his hands, the smallest kid on the floor made the biggest play of the game against rival Dalton.
McDaniel, a 5-foot-8-inch sophomore guard took a charge in the final minute and helped the host Bruins stay in front against the Catamounts and eventually win their Sub-region 7B-4A matchup, 63-57.
Ahead 58-55 with less than a minute to play, McDaniel stepped to the line for a one-and-one free-throw situation after missing an attempt on the previous possession for the Bruins (13-3, 3-0 Sub-region 7B-4A). With a chance to give his side a two-possession lead, McDaniel misfired again.
“I was nervous,” said McDaniel, who was making his crunch-time debut in the rivalry.
But as Rico Mears drove down the lane for Dalton (12-4, 2-1), McDaniel positioned himself near the rim and stabilized his feet just in time to take a charge with 36.8 seconds left, nullifying Mears’ made basket and avoiding a defensive foul.
“That definitely was a big play,” Northwest coach Ryan Richards said, “because they were about to cut it to one on a layup. ... You’ve got to give him a lot of credit for a lot of guts right there. He’s a little guy playing tough.”
Northwest’s Tanner Quarles made two free throws to extend the lead to 60-55. After Mears made a layup with 19.2 seconds, Caleb Storey made the second of his two free throws to all but clinch the contest, something McDaniel knew was inevitable after his big play.
“I believed in my team,” he said. “I knew they’d put it away for me.”
The Bruins now own sole possession of first place in the sub-region standings, but the two teams play again Jan. 29 at Dalton, and could meet a third time in the region tournament.
“This is a war,” Cats coach Mike Duffie said, “and that was just one battle. We hope to see each other at least twice more.”
Dalton tied the game 2-2 on its first possession with an Alex Bautista jump shot but never led and never pulled to a tie after Northwest’s next score. The Bruins scored the next 12 points to take a 14-2 lead, but didn’t score for another four minutes as the Cats cut the deficit to 17-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Trailing 23-22, Dalton missed three consecutive free throws in a 2-for-10 first-half effort and went into halftime trailing 36-29. The Cats finished the night 8-for-17 from the foul line, while Northwest went 11 of 21.
“Oh, that’s the game,” Duffie said of the missed free throws. “That’s big.”
The Bruins led 47-42 after three periods and had the lead cut to three numerous times in the fourth. Bautista scored 19 points but fouled out with 2:18 left and Dalton trailing 58-53, taking away the Cats’ second-leading scorer in the game and leading scorer on the season.
Dalton’s Demond Rucker finished as the game’s leading scorer with 20 points; he added nine rebounds. With the Cats shooting poorly from outside — 2-for-10 from behind the 3-point line — and giving up 16 turnovers, he was needed to keep the game close.
Northwest didn’t do much better from long range, making just 6 of 20 tries. Storey sank four en route to a team-high 15 points, while Quarles made the other two and tallied 12 points. Tanner Bailey added 13 points and six rebounds.
“Tanner and Caleb sort of got going a little bit, but not like they have been,” Richards said.
• Gordon Central 58, North Murray 52: Zach Vess scored 22 points, but the Mountaineers lost for just the second time this season, getting outscored 17-11 in the fourth quarter on the road.
The team’s first Region 5-3A loss of the season ended a streak of 13 straight victories overall for North Murray, which is ranked No. 9 in Class 3A by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“We didn’t take care of our business down the stretch,” North Murray coach Tim Ellis said. “We didn’t do some of the things that had us at 14 wins in 15 games. We didn’t execute real well, and Gordon Central had a lot to do with that, but we didn’t handle our business.”
With the game tied 41-all going into the fourth, Ellis said Gordon Central put a lot of pressure on the ball in the half court and forced turnovers to take the win.
Austen Horn added 17 points for North Murray (14-2, 5-1 Region 5-3A).
• Murray County 53, Chattooga 48: Martin Contreras scored 14 points and was 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory for the Indians on the road.
Cesar Romero added 10 points, and Matt Corbin finished with 16 rebounds for the Indians (9-7, 4-2 Region 7-2A).
• Heritage-Catoosa 50, Southeast 24: The Raiders hit just 4 of 20 shots in the first half and trailed 17-9 at the break in the loss to the Generals.
Chaz Payne led Southeast (3-13, 2-1 Sub-region 7B-4A) with 11 points.
• Coahulla Creek did not report results from Friday’s scheduled varsity game against visiting Ringgold by The Daily Citizen’s deadline.
• Christian Heritage JV 59, Morris Innovative 34: Evan Townsend’s 17-point effort led the Lions (9-3), while Tyler Tipton and Chase Tidwell added 15 and 10, respectively. Morris Innovative was led by Tevin Robinson’s 12 points.