June 24, 2016
By Joe Mitchin
Not much has come easy for the Dalton High School boys basketball team this summer. That, however, is just the way they want it.
Dalton is in the middle of another year playing in the Dawg Days Summer League at Village Green Park and Dalton High School.
It’s there that the Bulldogs have measured themselves up with the likes of college level athletes and no shortage of older players trying to stay in the game.
Each night Dalton knows there’s a possibility of getting knocked around a bit by the competition, but that hasn’t stopped the team from coming back for more.
Results haven’t been exactly what Dalton has wanted, but even with wins being hard to come by, it believes playing in its own backyard against those kinds of teams will help down the road when wins and losses matter most.
“We can’t say no to this,” Dalton coach Ben Holt said. “It’s right here in our hometown. Ultimately, it’s just good for us to go out and play against bigger, stronger, faster guys and to get together and play some basketball.”
The type of competition that Dalton has seen twice a week throughout the month of June isn’t anything new to the program.
In fact, Dawg Days, which has been run by league director Morgan Wenger for over a decade, has played an integral part in the team’s offseason regiment for years.
The league was created in 2010, four years after the start of the annual Dawg Days 3-on-3 tournament each July.
The Bulldogs know they’ll be in for a fight each time out, which has helped with the group’s competitive nature. That’s something Holt has preached to his kids to not lose once the real season rolls around in November.
“I always just say to go out and compete,” Holt said. “I don’t care what the score is; we know we might be on the wrong end of it. But for us, we just want to go out there and not back down. We’ve done a good job of that.”
The Bulldogs also have organized some scrimmages with other high schools this summer and went to team camp together earlier in the month. But the biggest opportunity for a learning experience continues to be found in the team’s home gym as the Bulldogs fight to survive in the centerpiece of their summer workouts.
“Sometimes our kids find out just how strong these grown men are,” Holt said. “The kids love to be out there though and it’s just a good league for us.”
Holt says his Bulldogs have been a motivated bunch throughout the summer. Dalton fell in the opening round of the Division IV sectional tournament last season and let an opportunity to grab a share of the WCAL title slip away late in the year. Those setbacks have stuck with the Bulldogs’ many returnees, though, and it hasn’t taken long for them to shape those memories into bulletin board material.
As Dalton continues to find ways to stay competitive against the older, stronger teams in the league, typically, there’s always something the young, spry group can fall back on to level the playing field.
“The one thing we have as an advantage is energy,” Holt said. “Sometimes we play against teams that don’t have much of that.”
The boys team isn’t the only program at Dalton reaping the benefits of the hometown league, either. Dalton’s girls team has been playing in the girls’ division for the first time this summer, along with other local teams like Tuslaw and Central Catholic.
The debut of the girls league has been a welcome addition to the Dawg Days league as seven total teams registered to play. Wenger hopes for that number to grow in the coming years.
Dalton’s number 1 priority this offseason was to find ways to get inside the gym, something this new league certainly has helped it accomplish. Playing against area competition has also been a plus for the Bulldogs, who look to mature and improve each day before the winter rolls around.
“This has been very beneficial for us,” Bulldogs coach Katie Miller said. “The kids have been coming and getting better. The more you can touch a basketball, the better.”
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