NOHS junior Dylan Garrington shoots and makes the go-ahead 3-pointer in the fourth quarter of Friday's first round of the Class 4A state tournament.

North Oconee High School’s boys basketball team just keeps removing things they haven’t done under first year head coach Rick Rasmussen.

Another large weight was lifted on Friday night. The Titans snapped a 16-year drought in which they were without a state tournament victory.

The Titans defeated Heritage (Catoosa) High School 47-42 on Friday night in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament.

Junior Dylan Garrington scored a team-high 18 points. Senior Adam Weynand added 16 points. Garrington hit a 3-pointer late in the game to give the Titans the lead after falling behind by four points in the fourth quarter. Garrington then stole the ball after an inbound and scored a layup that extended the Titans’ lead to three points. Garrington then hit two free throws to extend the Titans’ lead and begin the celebration.

NOHS’ first-year head coach Rick Rasmussen saw the maturity in his junior point guard on Friday night. Garrington has been a scorer for much of his time at NOHS.

Friday night, game plan by HCHS forced him to find other ways to impact the game until they left him space to shoot his shots late.

Rasmussen admits he and his coaching staff have coached Garrington hard all season long. Friday, he saw a point guard built for the pressure of a big game and willing to look for the best shots for the team.

“I thought he did a great job not just settling for tough threes,” Rasmussen said. “That’s what you do if you’re going to score 1,000 points in only three seasons. You can’t do it with just one thing. He’s becoming very versatile.”

Friday’s outcome and path to victory for the Titans provided a little perspective on how far the program has progressed in its first year under Rasmussen.

The Titans held a lead in their scrimmage game at the beginning of the season before allowing their opponents to storm back and win the game in the final quarter. The Titans replayed a similar scenario on Friday night with much more on the line and yet, found a way to claw to a win.

“It’s great to see the resilience,” Rasmussen said. “This team has grown a lot and in the past they might have panicked and gone on to making excuses and blaming each other when they got behind. Instead, we had guys saying ‘my bad and that was my fault’ and just showing maturity. They found a way to get it done.”

The Titans will travel to Thomaston to face Upson Lee in the second round of the state tournament. The Knights have won 12 games in a row to reach the Sweet 16. The Knights are going to be a challenging opponent for the Titans, but for Rasmussen, that’s a good thing this late in February.

“It’s a good problem to have because that means we’re still playing,” Rasmussen said.

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