Going into the game, coach J.W. Cantrell was nervous after having played the Wildcats twice already this year, beating them both times, the second one in overtime.
Cantrell repeated said that it is difficult to defeat any team three times in one season. He shared is distaste for the way the region was set up after the game.
“We had a good season but there is no doubt about it, our region is not set up to have the best four teams represented in the state tournament.”
In the game, Villa Rica took an early 19-18 lead in the first quarter but the Lions battled back to take a 40-36 halftime lead. Lithia still led at the end of the third quarter, 53-49.
The game was a back and forth affair early in the final quarter with Lithia managing to take a lead one shot and Villa Rica tying the game on the next shot. This happened several times until the Wildcats took the lead on a 3-pointer.
Lithia battled back a few times thanks to free throws but could not hit a shot from the field. They hit only six shots in the second half.
“They played us well in both previous games,” Cantrell said. “The last one was in overtime and we were lucky to win. They outplayed us Wednesday.”
Neil Phillips led the Lithia offense with 16 points. Beau Carter added 14 and Myles Horward added 11. Both Phillips and Carter are seniors, along with starters Bakari Best and Tius Vick.
“I hate it four the seniors,” Cantrell said. “They had a good season but we just could not get to the next level.”
Lithia struggled down the stretch with three losses, and senior Johnathan Walker missed the final third of the season due to an injury. Cantrell said the team stepped up in Walker’s absence but is presence was missed on the court. Walker is also a senior along with bench player Chaz Marshall. Overall that is six seniors that will not be back next year, a big hole to fill for any team.
“There is going to be a lot of hard work in the weight room and we will need to get better over the summer,” Cantrell said. These seniors were a group of hard working kids. They were good boys.”