As the University of West Georgia women's basketball team opens the final three-game homestand of the regular season, it has the opportunity to avenge a pair of losses from last month and climb into one of the top-four spots in the Gulf South Conference standings.
The first part of that equation comes in the form of a 5:30 rematch with rival Valdosta State at The Coliseum this evening before looking to settle a score with West Florida at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
The Wolves (13-9, 9-6 GSC) lost a 56-45 decision to the Lady Blazers (16-7, 10-5) just a few weeks ago on Jan. 21 and suffered a 69-68 overtime setback at UWF (14-8, 9-6) two days prior, making it imperative that they hold serve on their home turf this time around.
"The second time through, I think the games are a little tougher. You know the opponent, the kids know each other. And so it comes down to execution," UWG head coach Scott Groninger said. "We did a good job over the weekend and went to Mississippi and got two and now every game gets more important for the standings and stuff like that. It's got to come down to execution."
With only five regular-season games remaining, West Georgia is in a two-way tie for fifth place with West Florida and sits one game behind VSU. Union and North Alabama have firm control of the top two spots and are the only teams in the league that have already qualified for the Gulf South Conference Tournament.
And while all that will sort itself out over the stretch of the next two weeks, the No. 1 priority at the moment is a veteran Valdosta squad that features the senior trio of Madi Mitchell, Kenya Samone' Dixon and Taylor Buie.
"(Mitchell) is just a really good player, stays within herself. Very smart. You can't get her in foul trouble. She's just crafty," Groninger said. "Then they've got two kids that can really shoot it. Dixon is an all-conference player that's had a good, solid year. Then Buie is a sixth-year senior that they got from Nova Southeastern. Those three are going to be on the court about 38 to 40 minutes. They're all three very solid. You've got two outside shooters and a really good inside player, so they're very balanced with those three."
UWG is still not at full strength due to injuries, but Groninger said at this time of the year, it's something everybody has to deal with and he doesn't want to make any excuses.
Now that it's getting down to crunch time, it's making sure that you don't allow any victory to slip away. So 100 percent of the attention is on blitzing the Lady Blazers this evening.
"If you win, then you like looking at the scores and stuff like that. If you lose, it doesn't matter because you didn't take care of your business. We're not starting the countdown or anything like that. We're just trying to prepare for Valdosta. After Thursday comes and goes, we'll prepare for West Florida," Groninger said. "We just try to keep it real simple right now and talk about execution and doing what we do best."