The Lady Wildcats (13-6, 7-2 Region 5-AAAAA) were able to hold some kind of lead throughout most of the contest, going up by two after the first quarter, five at halftime and three going into the fourth quarter, but it was the final eight minutes that made the difference.
South Paulding (5-13, 1-9) made a basket to open up the fourth and make it a one-point game, but from there the baskets started falling for VR, including a pair of 3-pointers from Rhianna Warren, a three-point play and another trey from Britney Wright, putting the Lady Wildcats up by 14 with just under three minutes left.
In the fourth, the Lady Wildcats outscored the Lady Spartans, 20-6, to put the game away.
"They were right in it the whole entire game. We could never pull away. We had a little more depth on our bench and we just kept coming at them with pressure. They played very well," VR coach James Bailey said.
The game was sloppy on both sides, with Villa Rica committing 22 turnovers and South Paulding with 23, but in the end it was a region win for Bailey's squad, keeping it one game back of the top region spot.
"The way I take it, it's a region win. I think we got them because we have a little bit more talent than they have. They're a good team and their girls played hard. I give them props and give them credit for their effort. We've just got to be able to close out every game," Bailey said.
Wright and Warren led the Lady Wildcats with 24 and 16 points, respectively, but the win came with the help of a deep bench. Bailey was able to use 10 players in the game, keeping everyone fresh and getting productive minutes from almost everyone he put out on the floor.
"We're right there knocking on the door," Bailey said. "We've got to do the little things. We have to take it one game at a time, and if we do that, we'll be right where we want to be. I just keep emphasizing that. And if they keep coming out and working hard in practice and get better, we'll be good."
Another tough region test is waiting for VR, as it will travel to take on New Manchester on Friday night at 6 p.m. The Lady Jags had won their last two going into their contest on Tuesday night.
"I expect the same kind of fight. They're going to be fighting at home. We just have to go out there and get it, put our best foot forward. We need it. It's a region game. It's a must-win for us. That's what I want to focus on," Bailey said.
South Paulding boys 60, Villa Rica 56 (OT): The game got off to a questionable start for the Wildcats (13-6, 5-4) and didn't end any better, as they dropped the overtime affair for a fifth straight setback.
The Spartans (14-4, 7-3) were awarded a pair of technical free throws before the game even started due to VR dunking during the pregame warmups. The Wildcats were also whistled for a technical foul coming out of a timeout for a bench infraction. The third technical of the game was issued to VR coach Jason Robinson with 0.1 seconds left after a blocked 3-point attempt and subsequent foul called on his team.
"It's bad. I called the association [Monday] and talked about a call. I don't say anything about officiating and I never do. I'll probably get in trouble for saying something, but I can't stand idly by and let games be taken from us at home by judgmental calls. They call a technical on us, with the basketball, up three or four. They call a technical on us because they said one of our kids flipped one of their players off on the bench," Robinson said. "At the end of the day, we didn't hit free throws and they did. They deserved to win. They're a good team. They've won more games this year than in school history."
After neither team was able to get much going offensively in the first half — the Spartans led 20-18 at halftime — the Wildcats scored 25 in the third quarter to take a 43-37 lead into the fourth. In the fourth, the Wildcats shot just 2-for-8 from the free-throw line and were 10-of-22 for the game, as a Spartan layup as time expired tied the game at 53-all and forced overtime.
"We give the last three games away because we've shot below 50 percent from the free-throw line. If we don't improve there, we're not going to win a lot before the stretch," Robinson said. "We had opportunities to win, but we didn't do enough. Until we improve at the free-throw line, that's been our Achilles' heel for a long time. It's not a lack of work or a lack of focus, as far as us working on that, we're just not getting it done in crunch time."
In the overtime period, the ball didn't bounce much better for VR, as Josh Lay made a layup to tie the game at 55 with just under two minutes left. The Wildcats would only score one more point, going 1-for-4 from the line and having a 3-point attempt in the final seconds blocked.
Rodney Hill led VR with 15 points, while Dee McDaniel added 10 and Lay pulled down a team-high six rebounds.
Now the Wildcats will have to go on the road in hopes of breaking their five-game losing streak at New Manchester on Friday night.
"This half of the region is too good. You look at it sub-divided, they have one team that's undefeated and a second-place team we've already defeated twice. On our side, everybody has a winning record and everybody is beating up on each other in the second half. It'll be interesting down the stretch. Everybody's got problems. We aren't the only ones. We've just got to fix ours," Robinson said.