If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Please enter your email and we will send your username and password to you.
With 1.6 seconds remaining, the Oconee County girls basketball team is one successful inbound pass away from beating crosstown rival North Oconee.
Sophomore Lydia Gay looks for Elizabeth Wynn, but the pass is intercepted by the Titans’ Kendall Wells, who quickly fires up a shot from just inside the arc.
The buzzer sounds as Wells’ shot rattles in and out, coming tantalizingly close to falling and sending the game to overtime. The entire gym lets out an exhale, and the Warriors begin to celebrate their 51-49 win.
Oconee County has found its groove in recent weeks, winning five straight games to improve to 12-8 on the season.
Julie Azeltine once again led the Warriors in scoring, posting 16 points and coming up big with seven points in the fourth quarter. Gay scored 10 points and Eliza Oechsle had 9. Oechsle also had a steal late in the game that helped seal the win.
Oconee County head coach Katie David said although she’s not a native of Oconee County, she understands how much the rivalry between the two schools means.
“I understand the importance of growing up together and that battle, there’s something special about a rivalry, so that feels really good,” David said. “But more than anything, it just feels good to the girls to string some wins together, back-to-back-to-back against opponents that are strong opponents that are very well coached and well prepared. I know that North Oconee has both of those elements.”
Defensively, Oconee County did an excellent job after a quick start from the Titans, who led 19-5 at one point in the first quarter. The Warriors allowed just 6 points in the second quarter, and had tied the game at 25 by halftime.
Wells led NOHS with 21 points and 13 rebounds, continuing to punish opposing defenses in the paint. However, Wynn blocked two of Wells’ shots in the fourth quarter, stops that proved to be crucial in securing the win.
David said the clutch plays made by the Warriors comes with the confidence they’ve gained in recent games.
“I think that the playmaking comes down to confidence. We talk about it a lot,” David said. “You can’t be confident without failure, and you’ve got to experience that, study it, respond to it, and then have the belief that you can go make that next play, regardless of the situation.”
North Oconee fought hard throughout the game as well, and the Titans’ defensive effort was also impressive. Down the stretch, both teams had to work hard to get any space to shoot, but Oconee County was just able to make one more shot to get the win.
Both of the teams’ matchups this season were decided by razor-thin margins. In the first game, North Oconee won 43-42.
Titans’ head coach Erick Willis said he expects the games against the Warriors to come down to the wire due to how much emotion and importance is placed on the game by the players.
“When they growl up playing against each other and it’s the same community, you’re gonna get a game like that,” Willis said. “Their games have been like that since middle school. It’s very rare that somebody gets away from anybody in these games.”
Willis said he emphasized to his team the importance of using this game as preparation for the playoffs, both in reference to dealing with a road atmosphere and the intensity that the opposition played with.
“It gets them ready for their region run and their state playoff run, and same thing for us. That’s what we discussed in the locker room,” Willis said. “It’s a good learning moment for us. You’re on the road, you’re not gonna get the calls you want to get, the ball is not gonna bounce the way you want it to bounce.”
Up next for the Warriors is a tough region matchup with Hebron Christian, a team that beat Oconee County 67-29 earlier this month.
As for North Oconee, the Titans’ bounced back with a 79-38 blowout over Madison County on Tuesday night. They’ll take on Johnson High School this Friday night at 6 p.m.