The Lady Wildcats (16-7, 9-3 Region 5B-AAAAA) came out of the gates firing, scoring 20 points in the first quarter to take a 20-7 advantage after the first eight minutes. Then to start the second quarter, VR went scoreless until Raushanah El-Amin hit a free throw with 1:43 left in the half, allowing the Lady Hornets (12-12, 7-6) to get themselves back in the game.
"That second quarter, we got on them in the first quarter then we didn't even cruise, we just paused. The third quarter it got back going and we started controlling it. They played hard. I give it up to Hiram, they played hard and played a good game out there," VR coach James Bailey said.
The offense got rolling in the second half, as Angerika Colbert scored the first five points in the third quarter when the VR offense got going again. Colbert finished the game with nine points and four rebounds, playing some more important minutes for Bailey.
"We had to have some support because Rhianna [Warren] was tired and running. [Colbert] played a real hard game. She played an all-around game," Bailey said. "She played real focused and I'm proud of her for that. That's what we need from her. And leadership. She's out there and did what she needed to do for us to be successful."
It was the usual suspects leading the way for the Lady Wildcats, as Warren scored 20 to go along with Britney Wright's 15 points and 12 rebounds. Colbert and Mel Daniel both finished with nine points each, while Shamaya Evans pulled down nine boards.
Right now the Lady Wildcats are locked into the No. 2 seed coming out of their sub-region in Region 5-AAAAA, but that doesn't mean they can slow down in the final two regular-season games.
"If we win out, we finish second in the region," Bailey said. "The girls, it doesn't matter, they're ready to play. I have a countdown that says, 'One game at a time.' We just got to keep knocking them down, keep staying together as a family. Got to give it to my coaching staff, too," Bailey said.
Up next for VR is a trip to South Paulding to take on a team it beat, 53-36, in the first meeting of the season. The game will tip at 6 p.m. on Friday.
"I hope we play four quarters like this first quarter instead of three quarters. To me, I don't think we've played a whole, complete game from beginning to end. When we do, we're really dangerous. Maybe they're waiting out for the last one, but we're going to keep working at it," Bailey said.
Hiram boys 57, Villa Rica 51 (OT): The Wildcats (14-9, 6-6) scored 26 points in the fourth quarter, but were on the wrong end of a close game yet again.
The VR offense couldn't get much going through the first three quarters with just 20 points, but were able to pick it up late in the fourth quarter, and Rodney Hill's 3-pointer with 11.5 seconds left was enough to tie the game at 46-all and force overtime.
In the last six region games — all losses — the Wildcats have lost by an average of just six points, three coming in overtime. Overall, VR is just 1-8 in its last nine.
"We've lost four or five overtime games since Christmas and all of them have been about like this. Kind of in a lull for half the game, then wake up and scramble at the end and play hard. I'm proud of how they played in the fourth period, but the first three periods it didn't matter who we had out there, there wasn't a lot of great effort. I don't think it was a lack of want-to or trying, just for some reason, we weren't focused," VR coach Jason Robinson said.
Delano Mims and Xavier Hughes sparked the VR offense in the second half, as the pair finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Josh lay had a team-high six rebounds before fouling out in overtime.
Free throws hurt the Wildcats down the stretch, as they went just 10-of-20 from the charity stripe compared to 17-of-23 for Hiram. The missed free throws, along with a team that isn't always moving in the right direction, has been a problem this year.
"When we're all on the same page, we're pretty good. When we're not, we're mediocre at best. If we don't start hitting free throws, it doesn't matter what we do offensively or defensively, we're not going to be in close games. And from here on out, every game matters a whole lot," Robinson said. "If we just hit an average high school percentage, I think we win the game."
The Wildcats will try to break their region losing streak Friday when they travel to South Paulding at 7:30 p.m. The meeting between the two in Villa Rica was one of those overtime losses that VR will try to avoid this time around with region tournament seeding on the line.
"The main thing is you want to stay opposite of Allatoona. They haven't lost a region game, the region tournament's at their place. If you finish fourth on our side and you win, that first round you're going to end up playing them," Robinson said. "We can't finish first, but we can still finish second or third. We just need some help now. That being said, it's just such a tight race."