Feb 19, 2016
CARROLLTON, Georgia -- The West Georgia Tech men's basketball team begins its postseason with a semifinal matchup against the Southern Crescent Tigers in the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association / Region 17 Tournament Saturday afternoon.
WGTC and Southern Crescent will tip at 4 p.m., following the other semifinal matchup on the men's side of the bracket between the fourth seed, Georgia Northwestern, and top-seeded Oxford College. The two winners will play for the championship Sunday at 4 p.m.
The GCAA/Region 17 Division III Men's and Women's Basketball Tournament is being held at Oxford College in Oxford, Ga. Saturday and Sunday.
West Georgia Tech, Southern Crescent and Oxford finished in a three-way tie for the top spot in the regular season standings with 4-2 records. All three went 1-1 against each other, so a drawing was held to determine the tournament seeding. Oxford drew the number-one slot, Southern Crescent drew the second seed and WGTC drew the third.
The Golden Knights have won five of six and are 7-1 over the final eight games of the regular season. Its only loss during that stretch was to the Southern Crescent team that WGTC faces Saturday. The Tigers dominated West Georgia Tech 97-75 on February 8 in Griffin.
West Georgia Tech won the first matchup between the two teams in Carrollton by 24 points, 77-53.
"Obviously our two games against Southern Crescent were contradictions of each other with either team winning by over twenty points," Okolovitch said. "We have three major keys when we play them and we need to win at least two of those keys to have a chance to beat them. In the first game we succeeded at two of the keys and won, and in the last game they destroyed us at all three. Then if we are lucky enough to get by them, whoever wins the Oxford-Georgia Northwestern game provides a different matchup and their own set of dilemmas for us. So we have had a lot to consider in our pre-tournament prep. But our main focus has been on Saturday and to take it one game at a time. Getting ready for SCTC is taking the bulk of our practice time right now because there is no Sunday without a solid performance on Saturday."
Sophomore guard Jalen Bracey leads West Georgia Tech offensively with 15.8 points per game. Bracey is among the conference leaders in free throw shooting (82.0 percent) and three-pointers (50 of 136).
Bracey will leave West Georgia Tech as the program's most prolific scorer, as he sits atop the school's all-time scoring list with 749 points.
Bracey has broken the 30-point barrier twice this season with 37 points against Summer Hill Prep on February 15, and 32 points against the LaGrange College junior varsity in January.
The Mill Creek High School product was a key member of WGTC's 2013-14 team, which won the Region 17 Tournament and advanced to the District 7 Championship Game. Bracey was second on the team in scoring that year, with 12.8 points per game, before sitting out last season.
Bracey also leads the team in steals (2.7 per game) and is tenth nationally in total number of steals, with 74.
WGTC's floor general is sophomore transfer Dominique Lindsey. Lindsey leads the conference and is seventh in the nation in assists per game, with 6.9. He now holds the WGTC single-season assists record, with 172. Lindsey is second on the team in scoring, with 12.4 per game.
While two sophomores, Bracey and Lindsey, lead the Golden Knights in the scoring and assist departments, perhaps the biggest factor in WGTC's success has been the rebounding efforts of freshman center Adrian Tolbert.
The Newnan native leads the conference in rebounds with 12.1 per game. Tolbert leads the conference and is ninth in the nation with 302 total rebounds. He also leads the conference in blocked shots, with 47.
The 6'7 big man has totaled 10 rebounds or more in 17 of 25 games and has recorded 20 rebounds or more in three games this year. He broke the school's single-game rebounding record with 23 rebounds against Summer Hill Prep on Homecoming. If you take out the season-finale against Summer Hill, when Tolbert played only 15 minutes, the he is averaging 18.0 rebounds per game over his last five games.
Tolbert is third on the team in scoring with 11.0 points per game and leads West Georgia Tech with ten double-doubles.
As a team the Golden Knights are shooting 42.9 percent from the field, 28.2 percent from three-point range and 62.7 percent from the free throw line. WGTC's opponents average 41.0 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from three-point range.
West Georgia Tech has traditionally played well in the Region 17 Tournament. The Golden Knights won the tournament for three-consecutive years, from 2012-14, before falling in last year's championship game to Southern Crescent, 96-90.
West Georgia Tech owns an 8-1 record in the Region 17 Tournament since joining the conference in 2011-12. West Georgia Tech has never lost an opening round game in the tournament and has played in all four Region 17 Tournament championship games over that four-year stretch.
WGTC tends to play its best basketball late in the season under Okolovitch.
"We've had good luck in the four years that we have participated," said Okolovitch. "We have always been able to get our kids to collectively buy in to a one-hundred-percent winning mentality by this point in the season. I think this team has fallen right in line with that thinking. If we can couple that mentality with solid execution on both ends of the floor, and maybe get some luck, we have a good chance of coming out champions once again."
If West Georgia Tech can win Region 17 Tournament with a pair of wins this weekend, the Golden Knights will advance to next weekend's District 7 Tournament. The champion of Region 10 will host the four-team District 7 tournament. Region 10 is comprised of schools from North Carolina.
But first, the Golden Knights must navigate through its own region in a four-team field that is as evenly matched as it has ever been.
It's win-or-go-home time, the time of year when West Georgia Tech men's basketball has traditionally risen to the occasion. We'll find out if this team is capable of doing it again when they tip at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Visit www.WGTCAthletics.com for updates. Scoring updates throughout WGTC's men's and women's basketball games will be posted on WGTC's social media platform: Facebook (www.Facebook.com/WGTCAthletics); Twitter (@WGTCAthletics). Live video of this weekend's Region 17 Tournament will be available at: www.jockjivesports.net/the-gcaa-sports-network.
Visit www.WGTCAthletics.com for more information on West Georgia Tech Golden Knights athletics.