But after the Villa Rica High School senior forward helped guide her team to a runner-up finish in the Region 5-AAAAA Tournament last weekend, she can now emphatically check that one off.
Wright and the Lady Wildcats will play host to the program’s first postseason appearance since the 2007-08 season tonight at 6 when third-seeded Cedar Shoals rolls into town for the opening round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
“This is real special to us because this is what we’ve wanted for a long time. For us to be here right now is really good for us. I think it’s a really good chance for us to show up, show out and show everybody that we can do it and that we can continue to play. Because we’re not ready to stop playing yet,” Wright said.
The second-seeded Lady Wildcats (21-8) face a formidable test in Lady Jaguars (25-3), who are ranked No. 9 in the state and fell to a No. 3 seed after getting upset in the semifinal round of the Region 8-AAAAA Tournament.
Cedar Shoals, which is making its first postseason appearance since 2008-09, has overcome its share of adversity to reach this point, losing two key contributors — on consecutive days in December, no less — to ACL tears in seniors Quinnesha Turner and Brittany Howard. The Lady Jags have forged ahead, though, behind the top-ranked defense in their region, holding opponents to just 31 points per game led by 6-foot-2 senior center Ty Davis, senior guard Breeana Taylor and sophomore guard Kierria Curry.
“They are a very scrappy team. They have a big inside presence. I got a little history on them and their post player’s mom played on the state championship team at Cedar Shoals, so that bloodline is in there. So they have that winning mentality and they’re a very good program out there. It’s going to be a fight. We’ve got to play all four quarters. It’s not going to be some one-sided game,” noted first-year VR coach James Bailey.
The progression to the postseason has been an enjoyable ride for Bailey in his first season in charge of the VR program. Being a former star at Villa Rica during his prep days, Bailey understands how special this achievement is for his players.
“I’m so happy for them to have the opportunity to go to state. They’ve been having some real good teams and some real good seasons the last few years, and I’m just happy that they have the opportunity to play in this thing. It’s something that they’re always going to remember, the opportunity to go to state,” Bailey said. “I’m very happy for them and they deserve it. They’ve worked real hard for me this year. I know I can be hard on them at times, but they understand where I’m coming from and it’s all about respect.”
Lady Cat shooting guard Rhianna Warren is one of seven VR seniors that has battled through the near-misses of state berths in recent years before finally getting a taste this season.
“We’ve never been this far. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but we’re ready for it,” Warren said. “Whatever the outcome is, I just hope we give it our all and play hard.”
And with Villa Rica opening its new gymnasium next season, tonight will more than likely be the final game at “The Box,” which has proven to be somewhat bittersweet for Bailey.
“I think that’s more of why I’m on such of an emotional roller-coaster. I was here with the very first gym and the wood floor, was here when the floor was changed to rubber and remodeled the way it is now. Then to be leaving and going to a new gym [next year], I know to me, personally, it’s a big emotional trip. I really wanted them to be able to play in the new gymnasium their senior year, but for them to be the last girls’ team to play in here, I think it means a lot to them,” Bailey said. “We just want to ride off in the chariot and say, ‘Hey, job well done.’”