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Matt Hamilton/The Daily Citizen

With the dominance that Allatoona’s boys basketball team has displayed against Class 3A competition this season, Dalton coach Mike Duffie knew his Catamounts had a very small window of opportunity against the Buccaneers — the eighth-ranked team in Class 3A.

They had their window, but Allatoona slammed it shut.

Dalton pulled within four points at the beginning of the second half, but the Buccaneers forced the Cats out of their zone defense and outscored them 22-6 in the third quarter en route to a 63-34 shellacking in the Region 7-3A tournament championship Saturday night at Murray County’s Kenneth Ross Gymnasium.

It was the second year in a row that Allatoona had played in the region championship game, but the first title for the Cobb County school.

“We were really young last year, and we didn’t shoot the ball as well last year,” Allatoona coach Markus Hood said. “We have the same group of guys, and they worked extremely hard to get back here.”

The Lady Buccaneers gave Allatoona a sweep of the region titles with a 56-40 victory over Cartersville. In the consolation games, Cartersville’s boys rolled past LaFayette, 63-49, and Gilmer’s girls edged Pickens, 35-34. All of the teams in action on Saturday will play in the first round of the state tournament against Region 8-3A foes next weekend.

Dalton’s boys were destroyed by Allatoona’s offensive rebounds in the first half as the Buccaneers scored the vast majority of their points on second-chance baskets after pulling down 21 offensive boards. Allatoona used its height as the Buccaneers’ starting lineup averaged 6 feet, 3 inches.

Dalton’s tallest starter is Tristen Harrell at 6-foot-2.

The Cats tied the game at 10 on a putback from Tre Beck in the first quarter, but Dalton went cold from the outside and Allatoona scored the next 15 points to lead 25-10 with less than three minutes in the first half.

The Cats responded by changing back to a matchup zone defense and scored the last nine points of the half as Harrell found the range with seven straight points to pull Dalton to within 25-19 at the break. Harrell, who needed just 10 points coming into the game to eclipse 1,000 points for his career, scored his 11th point of the game with a drive and a basket to start the third to pull to within four when Allatoona pulled the ball out and went into a stall to force Dalton out of its zone.

That was just fine with Duffie.

“We knew we couldn’t match up with them one-on-one,” Duffie said. “We hoped to be within eight with two minutes left in the game, and we pulled to within 25-21, and they pulled it out, and I was more than happy. They were going to let the clock run, and let us get there. I wish I could have called a defensive timeout, but we got overextended on the zone, and they beat us on penetration and then kicked it back out.”

Allatoona’s Daniel Fowler hit the 3-pointer, Dalton found itself out of the zone and the Buccaneers were off and running to a 24-3 run to put the game away.

“Starting that third quarter and getting them out of the zone was really big,” Hood said. “We weren’t shooting well from the outside against their zone, and we had to loosen that up and get some penetration and use our height in other ways.”

Which was exactly what Duffie was afraid of.

“I would have stayed in that zone and let the clock run, but we got out of it and that was the ballgame,” Duffie said. “We knew we had to hit our free throws and shoot the ball well from the outside, and we didn’t do either one of those.”

Dalton hit just one 3-pointer in the game, and that came late in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of hand.

Allatoona’s DyMichael Ross led the Buccaneers (24-4) with 17 points, while Will Grant finished with 15 and Fowler had 14.

Harrell led Dalton (20-7) with 18.

Dalton will play host to Franklin County, the third-place team from Region 8, in the first round of the state tournament on Saturday. Allatoona faces Monroe Area.

Cartersville boys 63, LaFayette 49: In the boys consolation game, the Hurricanes’ Davis combo of J.R. and Ryan combined for 35 points as Cartersville pulled away after leading by six heading into the fourth.

J.R. Davis had a game-high 18, and Ryan Davis finished with  17 for the Hurricanes (19-9). Lance Estus finished with 11 to lead LaFayette (19-6), while Devarus Porter and Jarrod Beamon each had 10.

Both teams will be on the road for the first round of the state playoffs with Cartersville traveling to North Hall and LaFayette at Walnut Grove.

Allatoona girls 56, Cartersville 40: The Lady Buccaneers had a nine-point lead at the half and steadily continued to build it for the region title.

Elise Spann led all scorers with 19, and No. 8 state-ranked Allatoona (24-4) will host the No. 4 team from Region 8-3A in the first round of the playoffs.

Kaelyn Irby had 15 points to lead Cartersville (21-6), which lost to Allatoona after splitting with the Lady Buccaneers in the regular season.

The Lady Buccaneers will play host to Gainesville in the first round, while Oconee County will make the trip to Cartersville.

Gilmer girls 35, Pickens 34: The Lady Bobcats claimed the third spot from the region as Brittany Lowman scored 11 points to lead Gilmer (19-10) past the Lady Dragons (19-10).

Danielle Goss led all scorers with 14 points, and Sarah Smith added 12 points, but only four players scored for Pickens.

Gilmer’s girls will travel to Chestatee in the first round, while North Hall will host Pickens.

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