Seventh year head coach Sam Borg is just twenty wins shy of 100 for his career at White County. The Warriors coach doesn’t care about that; he’s more concerned with making this season back-to-back state playoff appearances.
The 2016-17 group won 17 games for the third time in six years, and advanced to state for the second time in that span. Losing a strong, dominant inside player like John Ward is a hit for the Warriors, but coach Borg seems to think it opens up another possibility in 2017-18.
“We’re definitely guard-heavy,” says Borg. “We should be better at ball-handling this season…there’s no really big name on this team. It’s just going to be a total team effort, night-in, night-out. You might see a different leading scorer each night.”
“We played a little slower last year with [Ward],” says Borg. We should be able to play a little faster this season, and I believe in my bench this year.”
White County is guard-heavy, and will use guys like Austin Harris (junior), Austin Rowland (senior) and Clay Dockery (senior) to spread the floor and open up more running lanes.
Harris had a breakout season a year ago, and has found a way to improve upon that.
“I’ve just stayed in the gym over the summer, working on my game,” says Harris. “I’ve been staying hungry since we lost in state.”
Junior post player Jay Lepkoske knows that without Ward, he has the unenviable task of being that guy to fight for the loose ball, go for the rebounds, and do all the small things to help the Warriors win. It’s a role that he’s embraced.
“I just feel like it’s pretty big shoes to fill with [Ward] gone,” says Lepkoske. “It just makes me more hungry to fight harder and help my team out any way I can.”
Rowland, who comes from a family of rich athletic talent, including former BLITZ Golfer of the Year Garrett Rowland and Rand Rowland, who was a basketball walk-on at Georgia Tech and finished an inspiring four-year career.
The senior guard understands that the team has put pressure on itself to attain lofty goals they’ve set out to accomplish this season.
“Last year I remember three specific goals we had,” says Rowland. “One we wanted to be undefeated at home, we also wanted to go to the region championship and third, we wanted to make it to the state playoffs. We completed one of those, but the other two are still checkmarks on the list. I believe getting the first two done will get us back to the playoffs.”
Region 7-AAAA offers a great chance to make state again for the Warriors, who only need a top-four finish out of five teams to get back to the playoffs. That’s not the goal, however. It’s more than that — these guys are hungry for a deep playoff run.