Just over a month ago, there was no clear idea who would coach or represent the all-star Dawson County Park and Rec basketball team.
After being tasked with solving this problem, coaches Beau Cooper and Goose Conowal got together and put together a makeshift roster of individuals who only had a few weeks to prepare for a district tournament.
Despite the initial chaos, the team won four games in two days last week to win their district and qualify for the Effingham County State Tournament next weekend.
“We kind of threw it all together last week before [deadline]”, Cooper said. “It’s usually hard to get the 17-and-under kids to come and train…they have life. Just to make it work, they all put in a really big effort to show up for training.
Shortly after reuniting, the team would travel to play Barrow County and Madison County on Wednesday February 23 and Thursday February 24.
The first order of business was to form the identity of the team, which was immediately established by each player’s desire to win. Cooper and Conowal helped build a team that balanced individual effort with total team effort to score points.
“We’re playing very, very aggressively,” player Johnathon Powell said. “Score points as fast as possible and make mistakes.”
The aggressive style of play comes with frequent substitutions, but the players quickly got to know each other and don’t lose confidence no matter who is on the pitch.
While that confidence worked well in their opener win over Barrow, they were admittedly humbled in a close loss to Madison County. The next day, Dawson’s team escaped a tough effort from Barrow before winning their final game emphatically against Madison.
One element of this success that Conowal noticed was the players’ commitment to their own success and that of others.
“All of them play with a kind of swagger and love for the game, but even more love for each other,” Conowal said. “Every time they score, the bench gets fired up.”
In such a short time, the team made lasting memories as they headed into the state tournament on Friday, March 4.
It is not yet known who they will be playing with, nor is it known whether Cooper and Conawal will be able to coach a group like this again next season, due to various administrative changes.
During one of the area games, Conowal reportedly told a relative that “[He] I wasn’t necessarily afraid of losing and not playing basketball anymore, it was about losing and not being able to coach and be on the team with the boys anymore.
Dawson’s basketball team will start the pool game on Friday before heading to the knockout game on Saturday.