Oconee County’s and Prince Avenue Christian’s boys’ basketball teams played a close contest on Wednesday afternoon in the George Walton Academy Holiday Classic with the Warriors coming away with a 52-47 win against the Wolverines.
The Warriors led 8-5 after the first quarter and 21-20 at halftime. Going into the fourth quarter, the Warriors led 34-32.
It was the second win in the tournament for the Warriors, who improved to 7-5 overall. They defeated George Walton 71-34 on Tuesday. They close out the tournament on Thursday against Athens Christian.
“We knew Prince Avenue has a good solid coach. They have great kids and have a good system. I have known Will (Cantrell) for a long time and he does a great job with them. It’s one of these early games and is on a weekday. It’s almost like a practice situation. I was pleased with how we handled it,” said Oconee head coach Thad Burgess after Wednesday’s win. “We made some free throws. We took care of the ball. Defensively we did a good job. They have a good shooting team. They got one of their shooters back today that has been out. I couldn’t be more pleased. It wasn’t real pretty but that’s the way it has to be. I tell people if it is pretty, it will be ugly for Oconee. Our matchup zone was pretty good. The key was when we had to make some plays, we made some. Our free throw shooting was good tonight. It was a good win for us. Any time we win, we get more confidence in the program and what we are doing. Will and them are (8-5) so we knew we would have a quality opponent today.”
The Wolverines dropped to 0-2 in the tournament and 8-5 overall. They lost 59-39 to Lakeside-Evans on Tuesday. They close out the tournament Thursday against Social Circle.
“We played OK. We played hard. We didn’t execute down the stretch when we needed to and gave up some easy buckets. You can’t do that against a good team. A good team will make you pay for it and they are a good team,” said PACS head coach Will Cantrell following the Oconee game. “Coach Burgess has got them playing well and he is a great coach. I have a lot of respect for him. We have to go back to the drawing board and do a better job of executing.”
Jordan Story led the Warriors with 16 points and Roques Dowdy had 13 points. Rahul Das added eight points. Carter Huckaby had five points. Alex Deltchev had four points. Chris Johnson and Will Shuford both had three points.
The Warriors were playing their second game without Ty Paschal, who was injured against North Oconee on December 16. Burgess said they thought he may be out for eight weeks at first but his return could be sooner.
“It may not be as bad as we first thought,” Burgess said. “He heals real good and he is a great young man. We are not the same without him in it. Carter Huckaby had his best game today. He will have to step up. It will be good for us in the long run to get some depth in that spot.
“We have gone with a bigger lineup which means we aren’t as quite as good at the guard so we have to get a feel on that not just offensively, but it changes coverages in our matchup zone, which has been an adjustment for a couple of our guys. We know what we have coming back. Our region is loaded. You hear the term you control what you do. That is what we have to do this year. We try to take care of Oconee. Our mindset is good. Our kids are playing with intensity. We are rebounding well. We are playing defense. Those are effort things I look for. I couldn’t be more pleased. We make a lot of mistakes and we look ugly sometimes but as long they are trying and putting the time and effort into it, we are OK with it.”
Dalton Meeler led the Wolverines with 13 points. Mack Simmons returned from an injury and scored 12 points. Boone Seay had nine points. Sam Todd had seven points. Noah Campbell had three points.
“Any time anybody gets a kid like Mack back will do nothing but help you. Mack is a fantastic player. A great teammate. Anytime you get him in the fold is a good thing,” Cantrell said. “We just want to get everybody together. We haven’t had one practice or one game where we had everybody here. Our thoughts our is we are progressing OK but we feel like if we can get all hands on deck, we will be pretty good. We just want to get there.”
Cantrell said he is looking for energy and passion during this week’s holiday tournament.
“They will be tired. Three games in three days is a tough deal,” Cantrell said. “You don’t play that way any other time in the year. We are looking for energy. We are looking for passion. We are looking for mental toughness. We saw some improvement from yesterday to today in terms of our execution, which we are proud of, but we are still not where we want to be.”