Because by early Thursday afternoon, first-year Lady Wildcat coach James Bailey had put the 42-35 first-round triumph over Cedar Shoals behind him and was preparing for a totally different animal — a storied Southwest DeKalb program that won three consecutive Class AAAA state crowns between 2008-10 and reached the state finals last season.
Second-seeded Villa Rica (22-8) travels to the perennial powerhouse for the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs today in a 6:30 p.m. clash in Decatur against the top-seeded and fourth-ranked Lady Panthers (20-8).
And while Bailey is hopeful of having a strong fan base travel with the team today, he understands there won’t be the friendly environment his ball club enjoyed in its home win Wednesday.
During Thursday’s practice, Bailey had the speakers blasting in the gymnasium while his team worked on its full-court press break in hopes of emulating what it will be up against tonight.
“Very hostile. I wanted a lot of commotion going on in the background so they can get adjusted and also so they can hear me over the loudness with a lot of stuff going on,” Bailey said. “They’ve got to learn how to be focused during adverse times. That’s just the type of environment we’re going to be in. It’s going to be rowdy, but we’ve just got to stick together and I think we can pull one out.”
Southwest DeKalb knocked off fourth-seeded Sprayberry on Tuesday night in a 59-56 affair, as the Lady Panthers have grown accustomed to winning tight playoff battles under coach Kathy Walton through the years.
SW DeKalb is led by senior guard Miaya Crowder and a pair of sophomores in forward Nicole Martin and guard Davion Wingate. Martin leads the Lady Panthers at 16.6 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.8 steals per contest, while Wingate (10.5 ppg, 1.8 spg) and Crowder (9.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.8 spg) are also top weapons. Crowder scored 18 points in the Lady Panthers’ opening-round win, while Martin and Wingate both reached double figures with 12 points apiece.
Bailey put a priority on taking care of the basketball tonight, something the Lady Cats struggled with against Cedar Shoals on Wednesday.
“They’re going to do a lot of pressing, a lot of trapping. From what I’ve gathered by hearsay, they are going to do a lot of trapping,” Bailey said. “Their coach was here [Wednesday] night at the game, so I think they’re going to focus on trying to trap our guards. We’ve got to do a better job handling the ball. If we cut our turnovers down, we should have no problem.”
Lady Cat senior wing Shamaya Evans said while the opening-round win was nice, the team isn’t satisfied just yet.
“It feels real good to be able to beat a team like that, but we know we can go further. I think we’re going to win again,” Evans said. “We’re going to play them in their house and we’ve got to come hard to play somebody in their house. But I think my team, we’re going to be able to do it.”
One huge motivational ploy — other than obviously keeping their season alive — the Lady Cats have going for them is knowing that if they win, they’ll be back home to host the state quarterfinals next week.
With top-seeded and No. 1-state ranked Kell getting upset by Stephenson and fellow Region 5 member, Lithia Springs, winning as a No. 3 seed in the first round, VR would host whichever team comes out on top of that second-round matchup, an intriguing development on the right side of the Class AAAAA bracket.
“Now we’re just trying to get one more back in ‘The Box.’ In order to do that, we’ve got to go through Southwest DeKalb. It’s just how hard they want to get out there and make things happen. If they really want it and do what we need to do, we can bring one back home for Miss Anne Anders here in ‘The Box,’” Bailey said.
And for the VR players, a win this evening would put them in elite company in school history, as Anders’ 1969 Class A state championship squad was the last VR girls’ team to reach the state quarterfinals.
“The final eight, that would be big. We’ve seen our boys do that in previous years. To be able to go that far my senior year, that would be amazing. I’d love to do that,” Evans said.