As the Golden Knights (10-14, 3-3 Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association/Region 17) hit the final week of the regular season, two big conference games loom over the next two days — an 8:30 date with Georgia Northwestern Tech tonight in LaGrange and a 2 p.m. matinee at Emory Oxford College on Saturday.
And after enduring several lineup changes up to this point, Okolovitch is confident he’s got the right combination to deliver the desired results heading for the postseason.
“It’s been up and down. We’ve had a lot of different lineups with kids moving in and out of the lineup for a variety of reasons, but we’ve finally got it down to our core guys who we know we’re going to finish the season with,” Okolovitch said.
In a five-team league that features plenty of parity, the Golden Knights are right in the thick of the race for the regular-season crown entering weekend play.
“I think everybody has at least two losses and we have a couple of games left. It’s going to be interesting to see how it falls. Last year it was a three-way tie for first. There had to be a coin toss. So I think it’s going to be a similarly funny situation, as far as who comes in first, second and third,” Okolovitch said.
For a team that averages 80.7 points per game, the onus in recent weeks has been shoring up the action on the other end of the court.
“That’s where we’re picking up the concentration, especially in practice and games. Everything that we do — we preach constantly defense, defense, defense — and I think they’re really picking up. They played pretty good defense at a good school [Wednesday] night. We only lost by five at Wallace State. We had a pretty good performance and a chance to win the game. We can’t go back on that, but I think if we play the kind of defense we played in that game and the game before, we should do pretty good,” Okolovitch said.
WGTC earned the Region 17 crown last season and reached the semifinal round of the NJCAA Division III District 7 Tournament in what proved to be a historic season for the program. Coming off that success, it’s bolstered recruiting efforts and helped get the West Georgia Tech name out there.
“With us not being able to offer kids anything, as far as scholarships, the recruiting process is always a little tricky. I may go watch a game and like the kid, but how do I sell this? You know, what am I offering him other than the opportunity to play basketball? But winning those games and winning the championship like we did, it got us in the papers and it got us some publicity. It drew a lot of interest to the program, which people start hearing about you and they want to be part of it,” Okolovitch said.
Another strong finish would go a long way for increasing the visibility of the program, and the Golden Knight head man believes his ball club is ready to make a run for more postseason progress.
“I think we’re in a good stride, especially on defense. All the teams are even. I think all five teams every year in this conference, everybody can beat each other. There’s no telling who’s going to beat who. We just need to focus on what we do well — execute our halfcourt offense, play tough, man-to-man on the ball defense ... if we take pride on the defensive end and have a passion for stopping people, we’re going to be a tough out. If we go in there with a lazy attitude, it’s going to be tough. We can’t just rely on us out-scoring everybody every game,” Okolovitch said. “So that’s going to be the key for us. What are we looking like defensively?”