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The Oconee County boys basketball team rallied late but couldn’t steal a win last Thursday in a close 49-43 loss to Athens Christian.
The Warriors’ were inconsistent on offense, but played tough on defense with high effort and intensity throughout the night to keep the game close against a talented Eagles team.
Athens Christian led 43-27 entering the fourth quarter, and Oconee County held the Eagles to just six points in the final quarter, clawing back into the game. The Warriors were just a couple of missed shots away from taking the lead late.
JR Dickens was Oconee County’s best overall performer, leading the team in scoring with 12 points while also contributing four steals on the defensive end, being a pest for Athens Christian ballhandlers to deal with.
One of the problems for the Warrior offense throughout the game was scoring in the paint. Athens Christian had good size and used it well defensively, limiting the amount of easy looks to be had in close.
Still, Oconee County shot just 7/28 in the paint, missing a number of makeable shots that could’ve changed the outcome of the game down the stretch. Freshman Mason Hall and senior Harrison Rue did a good job of working hard and getting into solid positions for shots, but largely struggled to finish at the rim.
The Warriors took a lot of 3-point shots early in the game, but weren’t able to consistently hit from the outside until late, when makes from Dickens and Levi Slaten helped bridge the fourth quarter gap.
Oconee County head coach Ryan Smith said that his offense did well to make the Athens Christian defense work for whole possessions and found good looks, but just couldn’t finish enough plays off.
“We were utilizing the shot clock and making them work their zone. We made more passes and attacked their zone, they got a little undisciplined in it and then we were able to attack it and got pretty decent looks, we just didn’t didn’t finish at the end,” Smith said. “Very easily could have scored a lot of points at night. We’ve just got to keep working.”
Smith is 15 games into his tenure as head coach of the Warriors. While the team is off to a disappointing 2-13 start, Smith and the coaching staff are trying to keep things in perspective and work on improving areas of weakness for the team and each individual player.
“What we’re trying to do with the guys is talking to them, letting them know where they stand as players in the program. What we like about them, what they need to improve upon, like a kind of a midseason review,” Smith said. “We’ve put a real focus at practice at like, what like, what our deficiencies are, what we need to focus on and work on. So we’re working on them in practice, and that’s part of that process. We told the guys ‘you can’t fix a problem until you recognize it, and then you’ve got to meet it head on.’ That’s what we’re doing. We realize our problem, and we’re meeting it head on, and we’re going to attack it. That’s part of that process.”
Oconee County dropped its first region game of the season 73-47 against Hebron Christian on Tuesday night. The Warriors will look to bounce back on Friday night when they face Stephens County in another region matchup.