By James Beach
DALTON, GA - A senior trio bid adieu to their home court Tuesday night at Dalton High School, giving a raucous crowd plenty to remember in their final home game.
Perhaps the biggest difference in the Lady Catamounts' 57-38 Class AAA state victory over Carrollton, however, was a sophomore spark plug who finally solved a pressing and persistent Lady Trojans squad that managed to hang around a lot longer than Dalton coach Jeff McKinney preferred.
Dalton's perfect season hit the 30-0 mark with the triumph. The No. 2-ranked Lady Cats will face St. Pius X or Troup County at 4 p.m. Saturday inside the nearby Northwest Georgia Trade Center in the state quarterfinals.
"I'm very pleased with the way the girls performed," said McKinney, who collected his 460th win as a head coach. "We got a little sloppy with the ball and missed more than enough free throws to keep it uncomfortable in the second half, but to score 57 points against that defense, and to hold them to six points in each of the first two quarters was pretty impressive."
Dalton's suffocating defense has held 19 opponents to 38 points or less in this stellar season, and 6-foot-5 senior center Quaneisha McCurty again made her presence felt. McCurty blocked eight shots and altered at least that many more as Dalton held Carrollton to nine field goals and 17 percent shooting (5-of-54) from the floor. Carrollton's only made baskets in the second and final quarters came in the final seconds.
The Lady Trojans (19-10) managed to stick around, though, by forcing 16 turnovers through the first three quarters and watching Dalton miss 11 of its 17 free throws. Carrollton 18 of 20 free throws as its lone source of offense.
After Dalton raced to a 26-12 halftime lead on the strength of a 19-6 run, the Lady Trojans turned it up a notch with a full-court pressure that
Georgia Class AAA second round
DALTON 57, CARROLLTON 38
Carrollton 6 6 17 9 - 38
Dalton 16 10 10 21 - 57
Carrollton (38) - Dix, Kenyata Hendrix 14, Emory 2, Richardson, McDonald 2, Jackson, Raven Trammell 11, Love 5, Varner, Boykin 4.
Dalton (57) - Rector 9, April Besley 12, Chandler McKinney 13, Howell 4, Thomas 4, Snyder 3, Quaneisha McCurty 12.
3-point goals: Carrollton 1 (Trammell); Dalton 1 (Howell). Records: Dalton 30-0; Carrollton 19-10.
cost Dalton eight turnovers, including six straight possessions before sophomore Brooke Thomas found a mismatch to her liking. Carrollton pulled to within 36-30 to start the final quarter, but then Thomas started taking a bigger Lady Trojans defender to the bucket, scoring all four of her points and dishing out to open teammates.
"They had a bigger, slower player on her, so I just told her to take it to the rim, and she did. It really opened it up for us," McKinney said.
"I knew I had to step it up, and it felt really good to get out of here with a win in our last game on this court this year," Thomas said. "They made us really work hard, and we know that's going to be the case from this point forward."
Chandler McKinney was the big beneficiary of Thomas' dishes, scoring nine straight points on layups to turn a 46-36 margin into a 55-36 breather. McKinney led Dalton with 13 points, while seniors McCurty and April Besley added 12 each.
For Carrollton, season-leading scorer Kenyata Hendrix had 14 points and Raven Trammell had 11, but second-leading scorer Tatyana Jackson was held scoreless thanks to McCurty's long arms.
"I knew I had two fouls early and they were going to come at me, so it helped me to settle down and play smart," McCurty explained. "Usually I try to block everything until I get into foul trouble, but tonight I let them come to me."
Contact James Beach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6273.