published Friday, February 10th, 2012

Dade back to all-out play, now 19-5

TRENTON, Ga. -- Glen Hicks learned that even after 35 years of coaching there still are lessons to be learned.

When Hicks looked at his Dade County basketball team this past summer, he saw a team that, due to graduation losses that included star point guard Travis Core and center Andrew Reid, needed some tweaks. A week into the season the veteran coach knew he had out-thought himself.

From a 1-3 start, the Wolverines have fashioned another successful, if relatively quiet, season. At 19-5 and a perfect 14-0 in subregion 7A-AA, Hicks' team is one win in this weekend's subregion tournament from earning another state tournament berth.

"At the start of the season we were forcing them into things they weren't comfortable doing," Hicks said. "We got away from doing what we do best, which is to go crazy for 32 minutes. It wasn't really anything we did consciously, but after three or four games we saw we had to play to our strength. Now if somebody is going to beat us, they're going to have to playing our game."

The Dade game features nonstop motion, including full-court pressure and an offense that relies on strong shooting. Junior guard Cole Birchfield and sophomore Clynt Bell have combined for 200 3-pointers this year, while first-year starter Josh Green has successfully replaced Core at point guard. The inside game is more physical this year with a group that includes Ben Williams, Dustin Howard and Andy Shrader.

Birchfield, the most experienced of the starters, leads the Wolverines in scoring at just over 20 points per game. His leadership has meant just as much, according to the coach.

"Until this year all Cole had to do was go out there and spot up and Travis would kick it out to him," Hicks said. "Now he's having to create a bit more and work harder. He's also probably our best defender, and he's a great leader on the court."

Birchfield admits the role change took some time to adjust to, but he says as the postseason arrives he and the Wolverines are as confident as they've been all season. He also believes that defense -- yes, defense -- is a big reason the team is dangerous.

"I've had to step into more of a leadership role and do more than just spot up in the corner and shoot," he said. "We have some different goals this year, like trying to hold teams under a certain shooting percentage and getting more steals. We definitely are taking more pride in our defense. Going into the region tournament, we're very confident."

Dade will play its first subregion tournament game Saturday. The tournament will be held in Trenton after the girls' team, which finished in a three-way tie with Calhoun and Sonoraville, won a coin flip Wednesday. The top four from each subregion will advance to the region tournament next week at Georgia Highlands College.

The Region 7-AAA tournament will be held beginning Monday at Murray County with the Dalton and Allatoona boys and the Dalton and Cartersville girls the top seeds, while Northwest Whitfield competes in the 7-AAAA tournament at Cass.

about Lindsey Young...

Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...

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