PHOTOS BY AMBER DOTY
By ARIEL STAHLER
Gazette & News sports writer
Dalton High School’s girls varsity basketball team showed up to Loudonville Feb. 24 prepared to take on the Redbirds in the Division IV Northeast 3 district semifinal. The Lady Dawgs did all they could, and even pushed the game to overtime, but they could not overcome Loudonville and a school record-breaking 53-point performance by Grace Vermilya. The Redbirds won 78-74.
Loudonville outscored Dalton 19-13 in the first quarter, but the Lady Dawgs turned around to outscore them 18-8 in the second quarter. By halftime, Dalton led 31-27. After a close third quarter, the teams were separated by one basket with Dalton on top. Dalton was leading 68-65 with a little more than 30 seconds left when they could not inbound the ball, which resulted in a turnover. Loudonville followed up with a 3-pointer to tie the game at 68. Dalton had one shot to win the game at the buzzer, but it did not go in. Fast forward to overtime, the game was tied at 72 all with 1:15 left. The decider of the game was free throws. The Redbirds made free throws to build a three-point lead. Dalton missed foul shots that would have put them closer and Loudonville put the game out of reach with two made free throws.
“Our kids came ready to play,” said Dalton’s head coach Katie Miller. “We seemed a bit nervous to start the game, which may have affected our slow start, but our kids settled in and got us not only back into the game, but in the second half, we built an eight-point lead. We were in foul trouble in the second half, missed some key free throws and had a lot of good looks inside that we couldn’t get to fall. Our kids should be proud of their efforts. We hope they recognize their potential and also realize how important it is to work that hard every practice and every game throughout the entire season.”
Ella Lunsford led with 23 points, three rebounds and six assists. Senior Tess Denning had a fitting performance in her last game with the Lady Dawgs by collecting a double-double, something she had done several times this season. She finished with 21 points, 12 boards and three assists.
“Tess has been a key player for us,” Katie Miller said. “She has had a really good basketball career. She averaged a double-double for us this season, but even more importantly, she was a leader. I think Tess’s love for the game grew throughout her high school career. She came ready every practice and game. We were very young this year and all the growth we made this season, and will make this offseason, she was and will be a big part of. When Tess graduates this spring, she should be very proud of all she has accomplished academically and athletically at Dalton. We wish her the best of luck this spring and look forward to watching her play collegiate softball.”
Lauren Clos scored 11 points, grabbed four rebounds and passed one assist. Addesa Miller also had 11 points, while dropping five assists. Marley Clark added five points. Mia Weaver ended with five rebounds, two points and one assist. Maddy West had two assists and one point.
Dalton finished with an overall record of 14-10 and they were third in the WCAL with a 10-4 record.
“Our season had highs and lows,” Katie Miller said. “We felt the second half of our season showed improvement from the first half. Even though we came up short on our goals, we still accomplished a lot. Our kids made a lot of individual strides, as well as team strides, this season that will pay off next season. When you have a young team, your offseason and preseason are really important. With both of those being affected, it took us a while to get going, but a lot of credit to our kids because they never gave up. We started 1-5 and they could have easily quit trying and did not. A good season that we can build on. … We will play a lot of basketball in June and we want to continue to move in the right direction before we start our 2021-22 season in the fall.”