Dawson sisters prepare for joint induction into Hall
by Emily Horos
ehoros@cherokeetribune.com
May 01, 2014 04:00 AM | 3543 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Twin sisters Ellen, left, and Helen Dawson reminisce over photo albums from their days as basketball players for Cherokee High School, during a moment at Ellen Dawson’s Woodstock home on Wednesday. The Dawson sisters will be inducted into the Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame on Friday. 
<Br>Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter
Twin sisters Ellen, left, and Helen Dawson reminisce over photo albums from their days as basketball players for Cherokee High School, during a moment at Ellen Dawson’s Woodstock home on Wednesday. The Dawson sisters will be inducted into the Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame on Friday.
Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter
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WOODSTOCK — If it were up to Ellen Dawson Ewers and Helen Dawson to choose which of them would speak first at Friday’s Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the decision would have been made on the basketball court behind the family house on Main Street in Woodstock.

The twins, who starred on the Cherokee High School basketball team from 1971-75, will both be inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of its 12th class. Both three-year letterwinners, two-time all-region honorees and two-time all-state players, they couldn’t imagine receiving the honor any way but together.

“It probably wouldn’t have happened any other way,” Dawson said.

To them, the induction gives the sisters a chance to thank the people who helped them along the way.

“We have definitely been blessed, and this gives us a chance to thank those who have been a part of it and have gotten us to where we are or where we were,” Ewers said.

The Dawson sisters will be inducted with former Etowah High School wrestler John Winkler during the ceremony Friday night at First Baptist Church in Canton. The 1972 Cherokee football team will also be recognized, as will the top male and female senior athletes from each of the county’s six high schools.

The sisters began playing basketball behind their family home after their father, James Dawson, a former basketball player at Marietta High School, nailed a pair of goals to some pine trees. The middle of seven children, the twin sisters say they spent most of their childhood playing hoops behind the house, or softball or football in front of it.

“We were always outside doing some sort of competition,” Dawson said. “Whether it was basketball or our brother, Eddie, dressing us up in football uniforms, or throwing a softball, we were always out there.”

Dawson still lives in the house in which she and her siblings were raised. On holidays and Sunday afternoons, the family still gathers for some friendly competitions.

“It isn’t uncommon to still see us out in the front yard throwing a football or out here playing basketball,” Dawson said. “It’s not so much we are playing pick-up — we are playing 21 and around-the-world and HORSE. As we have gotten older, we have kind of slowed down.”

When decisions between the two had to be made, they always settled them on the basketball court. Even as adults, they played games to 100 points — by ones — in order to decide who would attend a Braves playoff game.

“The first year the Braves went to the playoffs (in the 1990s), my brother-in-law had one extra ticket,” Dawson said. “He couldn’t decide which of us to take, so we went out and played 1-on-1. It took a couple hours, because you had to win by two.”

Dawson won — or, at least, she went to the baseball game. Ewers claims she won, only to let her sister go to the game out of kindness.

“(Cherokee coach Ron) Ely always knew that if he wanted to get a rile out of us, all he had to do was put us against each other at practice,” Dawson said.

Dawson and Ewers both attended Gainesville Junior College following high school, where they played organized 5-on-5 basketball for the first time.

After two years of playing basketball and a pair of knee injuries, Dawson stepped away from the game. She moved on to complete her education at Kennesaw State, which did not have a basketball program at the time.

Meanwhile, Ewers continued her basketball career at Berry College, where she contended with knee injuries of her own before graduating with a degree in education.

Both returned to Cherokee High, teaching and coaching under Ely. As former recreational softball players, they were instrumental in the establishment of a program at Cherokee. They coached from 1981-84 and posted a record of 52-3.

From there, Ewers went on to North Cobb where she coached basketball and started that school’s volleyball program.

Meanwhile, Dawson went on to teach at several Cherokee County elementary and middle schools before retiring from education as the principal at Holly Springs Elementary.

Looking back on their playing days at Cherokee, the sisters recall the strong following the program had, as well as winning a state title during the 1972-73 season, their sophomore year.

“That was in the winter, right before our dad was killed in an automobile accident that fall,” Ewers recollected, “so one of the best memories was being able to play that game, and he was up in the stands just watching it. After that, we began dedicating our seasons to him, and it became an outlet for us because we became gym rats from that point on. It really became therapy for us.”

The twins used basketball to cope and give their mother a break at home. Every morning, they would get a ride to school with their older brother, and then catch a ride home with another player after practice. On game nights outside the county, the bus would stop before returning to Cherokee’s campus in Canton, instead letting the girls off in front of their home in Woodstock.

Dawson said that after her father died, she and her sister would get the gym key from Ely on Sundays and practice with a small group after church.

Dawson gives credit to their mother, Vivian, for making it possible for them to continue to play.

“She never played sports herself, but she understood the importance of it for us,” Dawson said. “Without basketball, there would have been no college for us and no teaching.”

Dawson and Ewers are identical twins — the only difference being that Dawson is right-handed and Ewers left-handed. They also had their own strengths in basketball — Dawson was the shooter and Ewers, who is blind in her left eye, passed and played defense.

“We just played off each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Dawson said. “Her passing was unbelievable. I don’t know if she just got lucky or if she really saw what was going on around the floor.”

Ewers now lives in Canton, though she said that most of the siblings live within a few miles of the home they grew up in. Her son, Dawson Ewers, plays football and baseball at Creekview.

The sisters expect to have a large group of family and friends on hand for Friday night’s ceremony, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
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