The second heavyweight bout of the season between the Villa Rica and Carrollton high school girls' basketball teams went to the host squad on Tuesday night for the regular-season sweep.
In front of a full-capacity crowd on hand for the region rivalry contest, the Lady Trojans were able to maintain sole possession of first place by defeating the Lady Wildcats in a 58-52 clash.
Storming out the gate early with an 8-0 run, Carrollton (19-1, 11-0 Region 7-AAAAA) was able to take control of the contest early on. Powered by Ansley Barge's four assists in the opening period, Carrollton ended the first quarter with a 19-9 advantage.
The Lady Wildcats (19-2, 11-2) weren't going to let the game slip away in the first half, however, as trio of 3-pointers from Emerald Parham instantly brought VR back into the game in the second quarter. Late defensive pressure from Deasia Merrill and April Battle would energize the Lady Wildcats as they tied the game at 25-all heading into the half.
Switching to man-to-man defense in the second half, the Lady Trojans made the necessary adjustments needed to ward off the surging Lady Wildcats. Carrollton was able to get major production from Elexus Bell and Erial Daniel inside, while while junior guard Taylor Brown led the way with 18 points.
Hanging on to a 46-41 lead with 5:09 remaining in the third quarter, it was Barge who was able to bury a 3-pointer for the Lady Trojans to put them up by three scores and effectively gave them enough cushion to hang on to the win.
Carrollton head coach Shon Thomaston was proud of the fight his team displayed on Tuesday knowing what was on the line.
"We knew coming into [Tuesday] that it would be a four-quarter slugfest and that's exactly what it was," Thomaston said. "I saw a lot of heart from our girls. We played our gameplan to perfection early on and built a lead. But like good teams and good coaches do, they made some adjustments and got back right in it with some really good looks on the floor. In the second half, we started playing our normal man-to-man, forced them to take some tough shots and ended up hanging on for the win. It was a great team win and a great atmosphere for basketball on a Tuesday night."
Even with another strong performance from Merrill, who posted 23 points with six assists and five rebounds, VR saw its 12-game winning streak come to an end.
VR head coach Michael Mitchell praised Carrollton's second-half effort.
"They were able to make some adjustments and that's a credit to coach Thomaston," Mitchell said. "We have to go back and watch film so next time we meet a good team that does that, we'll be ready for it.They found ways to make shots down the stretch even with our hands in their faces and and on our end, we weren't making those shots."
Thomaston feels his squad is clicking at the right time and he said it'll have to keep it up because a third battle with Villa Rica may be on the horizon.
"I feel like we are peaking at the right time," Thomaston said. "I feel like everybody understands their role now and as long we can keep playing good defense, we'll always have a shot to win. Villa Rica's a really dangerous team and I really expect that we may have to see them a third time in the region tournament."
Story by Nick Simon
Reprinted from Times-Georgian