The first 32 minutes wouldn't be enough to separate the teams after the Lady Patriots (8-3) took the first game by 16 points. The Lady Wildcats (7-4) fought, but couldn't finish the game off, falling 43-39 in overtime. All game VR had trouble getting its offense going, committing 27 turnovers on the night and never making much progress inside.
"We never got going. I guess I've got to coach better. I'm going to take that, go back to work and move some things around to make sure I've got the right pieces going," VR coach James Bailey said.
Paulding County led by three after one, by four at halftime and two after three quarters, but the Lady Wildcats never gave up. Some late 3-point shooting kept VR in the game, and even though each team had a shot to finish things off in regulation, the two teams ended the fourth quarter deadlocked at 33 points.
In the end, VR never had an answer for the Lady Patriots' 6-foot-1 Jenny Vernet, who led the game with 20 points and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds. Figuring out how to stop Vernet will be item No. 1 on Bailey's to-do list, as VR might face Paulding County for a third time this season in the Region 5-AAAAA Tournament.
"We were trying to adjust to her and stuff and do some defensive strategies that we worked on in practice [Wednesday]. I guess I didn't play my cards right. She's a good athlete. She hustles, plays hard and we've got to find the right piece to the puzzle. We might see them again," Bailey said. "Third time's going to be the charm for us."
For the Lady Wildcats, it was the combination of Rhianna Warren and Britney Wright doing the damage with 17 and 12 points, respectively. Wright added eight rebounds, five steals, five blocks and three assists on the night.
Now VR must regroup to face Mt. Zion today at 4 p.m., again at Bowdon.
"We've got exams going on and then this tournament. We're bringing back the Christmas tournament. The atmosphere is high. As a coach, I have to find the right motivational tool to keep them focus, keep them engaged so we can go out there and perform. This is a tough loss for us, but we have to put it together and get it going [today]," Bailey said.
In other quarterfinal action from Thursday:
Bowdon girls 62, Mt. Zion 48: Remonica Stephens' first West Georgia Holiday Classic at home was a successful one, as the Red Devilettes (6-1) used a strong second half to pick up a 16-point win over MZ.
Bowdon turned a two-point halftime deficit around using a defensive third quarter and pulling away from the Lady Eagles (4-3) in the fourth quarter. Stephens likes what she gets in the final 16 minutes — it's the first 16 that trouble her.
"We're a [second]-half team. That's what we do. We don't play until late in the ball game. I don't understand why. We preach it — start it early. Maybe we will figure out that we have to play two halves. If we ever get 32 minutes," Stephens said. "I'm just glad to have that win at home in this tournament. That's nice."
MZ coach Bill Bailey had to adjust from his usual eight-to-nine-player rotation to just six on Thursday night, playing without Alexis Jordan and Corrssia Perry. Even shorthanded, the MZ coach was pleased with his team's effort.
"I thought the six girls we had played hard. Real proud of them. We just got killed on the boards. [Reshay] Brewer killed us inside. She was unconscious," Bailey said. "I felt like we had a decent gameplan the first half, but they made some adjustments and we quit rebounding. They were getting too many second, third shots down there."
Both teams had big nights from three of their players, but it was Bowdon's doing the most damage. The Red Devilettes were led by Brewer's 19-point, six-rebound effort, while Jacole Stephens and Whitney McClure added 14 points each. Stephens picked up 10 rebounds for the double-double, while Sydney Boddie grabbed nine boards in the win.
"One-on-one inside, that drop step was working for [Brewer]. Like I keep telling the girls, we just have to keep playing together. This is the first game I think somebody's scored that high. We're normally closer together. It's good to see people stepping up. Libby [Brock] stepped up, came in off the bench and scored. That bench is getting deeper," Remonica Stephens said.
For the Lady Eagles, it was Jennifer Bagby's 15-point, 11-rebound night pacing MZ, with Jordan Crews and Brittney McIntosh scoring 13 points each.
Mt. Zion will now face Villa Rica in consolation round at 4 p.m. today, again at Bowdon.
"We're going to have to take a little better care of the ball. They're going to be lots quicker. They play at a speed we haven't seen yet other than Bremen. Villa Rica, I saw them play [Thursday], they get up and down the floor. We let Bowdon beat us up and down the floor [Thursday], so we really have to get back and play better defense," Bailey said.
Remonica Stephens got a chance to see what is next for her team in today's 7 p.m. matchup with Paulding County.
"It will be a good game. They've got a big post that can play, and they've got some really nice guards. Our girls will have to work on boxing out and breaking their press," Remonica Stephens said.