CALHOUN, Ga. - For years Glen Hicks' team has been the hunted in Region 7-AA, but when Dade County got off to a slow start this basketball season the reign was thought to be over.
Motivated by the sudden role of underdog, though, the Wolverines have thrived of late and clinched their sixth consecutive state playoff berth Saturday at the region tournament.
The 70-51 win over Chattooga in the quarterfinals wasn't exactly vintage Dade County, but Hicks' 17-8 squad did what it had to do and now gets a shot at top-seeded Model in Monday's semifinals.
"We have a shot at getting a home game now, and we plan on getting after it Monday," Hicks said. "If we shoot the ball better we have a chance, but Model is a very good team."
Dade managed only four 3-pointers against the Indians, roughly a third of the team's per-game average, but when the Wolverines needed a boost they found it in the scrappy play of Mikey Williams. After Chattooga rallied to make it a four-point game at the half and with sharpshooter Clynt Bell having a rough night from the outside, Williams took over, with help from guard Nic Gaddis.
Gaddis' drive early in the third period began a game-clinching 14-5 run, but it was Williams who did the most damage, hitting a 3-pointer and following it with consecutive strong drives as Dade took a 51-37 lead into the final quarter.
"Mikey Williams dominated the third quarter for us, and we needed that boost," said Hicks, whose team never led by fewer than 16 points in the fourth. "I told them at the half that we needed to start worrying about Dade County and not what everybody else is doing.
"Often when we get a decent lead we seem to let up, and a couple of times there they beat us down the floor for layups, and that's not supposed to happen to us. We addressed that at halftime, and I thought the second half was much cleaner."
Gaddis led Dade with 19 points, with Bell getting 18, Williams 14 and post Brice Stanley eight points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. Ricky Cardoza topped Chattooga (9-17) with 15 points.
The news wasn't as good for the Dade County girls. Model's Rachel McFry hit a 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer to send their quarterfinal game into overtime, where McFry and fellow guard Hannah Clark scored all of the Lady Blue Devils' 10 points in a 45-39 win.
The Lady Wolverines (10-13) led 35-32 with five seconds to play when one official called an apparent five-second call as Model was trying to inbound the ball. However, another official had called time out, and moments later McFry's shot from the corner as she was falling out of bounds hit nothing but net.
"Give them credit for making the big bucket, but if we hit our free throws that shot doesn't matter," Dade coach Randy Watson said. "That's been the story with us all year: If we hit our free throws we win, and if we don't we lose. That's the fifth game we've lost like that this year."
The Calhoun girls also clinched a state playoff berth with a 48-39 win over Murray County. The Lady Yellow Jackets (19-5) led by 20 points in the third period before Murray rallied. Calhoun, led by Sydnie Parker's 12 points, held on and will face Pepperell in Monday's semifinals.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.