OCHS head coach Thad Burgess instructs his team during a drill at a preseason practice.

Oconee County High School boys basketball team head coach Thad Burgess has seen firsthand what a little success can mean for a basketball program.

Last season, as head coach of the girls team, Burgess saw the Lady Warriors defeat their rival North Oconee High School in the second meeting of the season.

For the rest of the season, the Lady Warriors were a tough ticket for every team they faced.

A weight had been lifted and confidence had been restored. That just hasn’t happened for the Warriors yet.

“It was amazing to see the girls last year,” Burgess said. “When the girls beat North Oconee last year it was like their whole body mechanics and whole feeling about things changed. Then we made that nice run at end and now the girls have this air about them. They have a whole lot more confidence. They’ve been there and done that. They’ve had some success and you can just feel it. Our guys haven’t gotten there.”

They have been close, excruciatingly close at times. The Warriors were beaten twice by rival NOHS on Feb. 5 to eliminate them from playoff contention in the late stages of last season.

Burgess feels it’s time for some things to go the Warriors’ way heading into 2019. Burgess is now in his fourth season as head coach of the Warriors and feels their lack of reward for their work is the last domino to fall in getting the program going the way he envisions.

“We’ve got to get to the playoffs,” Burgess said. “I think that’s going to be our next step that will really be able to sell some of our younger kids. It’s would just give us that little bit of pride here that we need. I feel good about where our kids are. We need to do that [make the playoffs] and we need to have some success at the end.”

The Warriors head into 2019-2020 with a lot of new faces and vacant roles.

Burgess feels that their philosophy will need to be similar to what they have shown the last few seasons.

The Warriors will rely heavily on returners Donnell Randolph, Aaron Birston, Da’Shawn Elder, when he returns from football, Noah Thomas and Patrick Gattiker.

As of today, the Warriors don’t know who their threat from the outside will be. Burgess admits the last few seasons have been difficult without a consistent threat from the three-point line.

The Warriors have had to find ways around their lack of shooting. The little things and rebounding have become a staple of the program the last few years because of it.

Burgess saw the benefits of it last season.

The tough and rugged style of play kept the Warriors in almost every game they played in last season.

“That’s been a concern for my four years here,” Burgess said of the Warriors’ shooting. “We’ve had to try to do some others things well. We really emphasize the rebounding part to try to get some more put backs and try to get more shots up than the other team. If you’re not making as many, you try to get more up. I think everyone in our program understands what we’re going to have to do. We’re going to have to win defensively and make it an ugly game. I know that’s not really fun to say, but you can really tell about your team by how they rebounded and how they play defense.”

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