A year stands between opposite emotions and opposite outcomes for North Oconee High School’s boys basketball team.
Last season the Titans partied in their locker room at Oconee County High School celebrating a win over the Warriors that put them in Class 4A state tournament.
Head coach Dave Gascho danced and the Titans had a taste of success they hadn’t tasted since any of the players on the roster had been in high school.
Friday night was the opposite. Tears flowed from the faces of Titans’ players heading into the same locker room after a 60-41 loss at the hands of St. Pius X Catholic in the Region 8-4A championship game.
The Titans were pounced on by the Golden Lions from nearly the tipoff. Dylan Garrington’s 3-pointer in the first minute of the game gave the Titans a 3-0 lead before the SPX won the first quarter 16-6.
The Titans were outscored 12-7 in quarter two, 19-18 in the third quarter and 13-10 in the final frame.
Garrington led the Titans in scoring with 16 points.
Titans’ first-year head coach Rick Rasmussen talked about hanging a region championship banner in the school’s gymnasium prior to the season.
The culture has taken a shift toward accomplishing that. While there is a sense of accomplishment in reaching the region championship, the fashion in which they were defeated acts as another measurement for how far the Titans have come in one year under Rasmussen as well as how far they still must climb to hang their first ever region title banner.
“We were in the game, we just needed to play better,” Rasmussen said. “Give St. Pius credit, they’ve been here before. They’re not in their first year together. We gave ourselves a great chance and I’m proud of the fight we had. We didn’t play well tonight. We knew we would have to play extremely well. We couldn’t hit and they were making everything and that added up and we got sped up a little bit. We’re still proud of the guys, they’re region runner ups and if you look to the group with a new coach, all of the newness and all that we had to learn and grow from to get here. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
NOHS will host Heritage (Ringgold) High School on Friday night at p.m. Hosting a state tournament game has been something NOHS hasn’t done in a long time, but Rasmussen had it as one of the things he wanted the Titans to cross off the list of accomplishments.
Last Friday the disappointment was apparent, but when this Friday rolls around the Titans will be in position to earn a playoff win in their gym. Rasmussen didn’t diminish the Titans’ disappointment, despite the long list of accomplishments so far.
“They’re disappointed and they wanted to win this game,” Rasmussen said. “I saw some tears in the eyes of some of these guys because they wanted it so badly. I think that shows a lot of growth that they knew it was attainable and they were so close.I happy as a coach to see the heart. It should hurt. It’s big and important. If you don’t have a group of guys that it’s going to hurt then it’ll happen again.
The Titans’ players’ have gravitated toward the new culture. Titans’ players remember the summer and the cram sessions they had trying to grasp the things their new head coach was trying to put into place. The Titans had some success during the summer winning 13 games over the month of games.
That time together played a big role in the Titans playing on Friday night.
“Coach Ras has done a really good job of coming and pushing us, creating a new culture and starting everything from scratch,” senior Adam Weynand said. “He’s really looking for it practice and he’s pushing the younger kids because they’re the future of the program.”