Winning a combined 47 ballgames over the past two seasons, the Villa Rica High School girls' basketball team has developed into one of the more dangerous programs in all of Class AAAAA.

And to first-year head coach Tammy Norred, the bar can be raised even higher.

The No. 8 Lady Wildcats already have a handful of games under their belt for the 2017-18 campaign, and so far the early returns are positive. That comes as no surprise when this year's group is once again being anchored by junior forward and two-time Times-Georgian All-Area MVP Deasia Merrill, who was rated No. 49 in ESPN's Class of 2019 'Hoop Gurlz' recruiting rankings during the offseason.

But she's not alone, as also returning to the VR lineup are two senior veterans in forward Jaila Orozco and sharp-shooting guard Emmy Parham. Also stepping up early in the season have been guards Tee Windom and Kyndal Coleman, as well as Aliyah Hindsman and Lexi Cooley coming off the bench.

Their new head coach is confident that they have the necessary depth up and down the roster to make a serious run this winter.

"Right now I feel like we have a really strong eight-man rotation and hopefully down the road we can add on to that," Norred said. "When you keep subbing in and keep up the run-and-gun style that we try to play, it helps what we're trying to accomplish as a team."

With so many players capable of stepping in and making their mark on any given night, the starting five for the Lady Cats could be re-arranged game-in and game-out.

"Nothing is set in stone. It's all about effort. Who's giving me the most effort on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday is who will start on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday," Norred said. "It's anybody's job, and I think what can make a team really good is knowing that if they don't do their job, somebody else is going to step in and do it."

Villa Rica (5-0) has bursted out the gate this season, opening the year with big victories over Wheeler and Chapel Hill before racking up a trio of Region 7-AAAAA wins against East Paulding, Cass and Kell.

Whether its beating an opponent by 30-plus points or squeaking by with a close victory, the former Haralson County head coach Norred doesn't want her team to be satisfied with the final score. She wants it to be locked in on the process of game-by-game improvement.

"I don't want them to get complacent," Norred said. "We may come out ahead of the game, but that's not what it's about. I try to point out the things that we have to work on and I want us to be able to make corrections. With our expectations of where we want to be once it gets to February, we've got to work on those things starting from the very first game."

Beginning with a region showdown versus Hiram on Friday, VR will continue its march toward the Class AAAAA state playoffs in February where the team hopes it can get over the first-round hump and make a deep run.

Getting to that point is a day-by-day process and the way her girls have opened the year, Norred is confident that their momentum will only keep growing moving forward.

"No matter where I've been, my motto for each of my teams have been to be better than you were yesterday," Norred said. "That's what I've asked of the girls and I feel like they've really responded."

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