While it is the final season for Knights Basketball at WGTC, Coach Niki Okolovitch's team is not ready to see it end just yet. The Knights (15-9, 3-0) claimed its 5th GCAA Division III Championship in program history and as a result will represent Region 17 (Georgia) in the District VII playoffs hosted by Sandhills Community College this weekend in Pinehurst, NC.
In Friday's opener at 4 pm, WGTC will face the winner of Region 20, 10th-ranked Prince George's Community College from Largo, MD. The Owls (21-5) will present a big challenge, both figuratively and literally, a point not missed by Okolovitch. "They definitely pass the eye test," says Okolovitch. "They have a ton of size, are athletic at every position, and are skilled across the board." Six players are listed at 6-6 or higher and they play an up-tempo game. As a team, Prince George's averages just under 88 points with opponents are averaging almost 75 points. Sophomore Alex Morales, a 6-7 guard/forward combo player from Paterson, NJ, is the top scorer and rebounder for the Owls, averaging 19.8 points and about 12 rebounds per game. Averaging just under 18 points is Tunde Scrivner, a 6-0 freshman guard from Washington, D.C. Okolovitch continued, "They have played a tough schedule. That area has a lot of Division I, II and III junior colleges, so that makes up the bulk of their schedule."
In many ways the two teams are similar. The Knights play several Division I junior college programs as well, mixed in with prep teams as well as junior varsity squads from 4-year schools. This fact is not lost on Okolovitch. "But as good as they (Prince George's) are, it's a level of size and skill our schedule has allowed us to see multiple times this year." The similarities do not end there. The Knights average 82.2 points and have 3 players averaging in double-figures. Freshman Juwan Johnson (Covington-Newton) and sophomore Kameron Hickey (Acworth-Etowah) average 14.4 and 12.9 points, respectively. Freshman Bevon Wray (Atlanta-Union Grove) averages 10.5 points and pulls down a team-leading 8.2 rebounds per game. The Knights, winners of 5 consecutive and 7 of 8, will need a total team effort if it has a chance to come out on top Friday. Injuries over the course of the season in many ways has helped the club. "We've been without some key pieces, and have still been playing at a high level," says Okolovitch. "That's helped our depth, as some of our reserves have stepped up and are playing with renewed confidence. Hopefully we can get healthy, be the hardest, fastest playing there, and see some great things happen this weekend."
Following Friday's opener, host Sandhills Community College, the champion from Region 10, will play Region 20's runner-up, Anne Arundel Community College from Arnold, MD. The winners of both games will meet Saturday at 1 pm with the winner advancing to the National Tournament in Rochester, MN.
Interestingly enough, WGTC and Prince George's have squared off before. In 2014, the Knights won an 87-81 overtime thriller over the Owls in a first-round District pairing. WGTC then lost in the Championship game that year to host Caldwell Community College (NC). The Knights have previously won Region Championships in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, but have not advanced to the National Tournament. What better way to close out a program than to win it all. That first step is this Friday.