Having already locked up the No. 1 seed for next week's Region 7-AAAAA Tournament, it would have been easy for the Villa Rica High School boys' basketball team to coast to the finish line of the regular season.
But five Wildcat seniors weren't about to let that happen, the least of which on Senior Night.
So with the unit of Javonte Hart, Elijah Fluker, J.J. Franklin, Lattrel Swanigan and Kalil Humphreys starting and finishing the game on the court together, Villa Rica delivered a dominant display in a 53-35 victory over Rome on Friday to celebrate Senior Night.
VR head coach Jason Robinson said there's a special chemistry among his senior class that embodies the tenacious spirit in which his team plays with, and Friday provided another example of that.
"There's something different about this group. Probably individually I've definitely had some more talented players. But these guys as a whole, I don't know what it is, but they play so good with one another. They're like brothers," Robinson said. "If you saw them on any given day, two or three of them are arguing with one another, they ride each other like they're brothers. The next day they pick on another one. It's constant, but it's like a family-type atmosphere. I grew up with brothers and that's kind of how we were. We're arguing one day and the next day we're loving one another. And that's kind of how this bunch is. When they step out on the floor together, they play on the same page. It's been a lot of fun coaching them."
Villa Rica (21-1, 14-1 Region 7-AAAAA) led from start to finish Friday, jumping out to a 10-2 lead through one quarter of play and carrying a 23-14 advantage into the intermission. Rome (8-13, 5-10) did just enough to hang around until early in the fourth quarter when the host squad finally delivered the knockout blow on a night where it was locked in defensively.
"Rome is athletic and physically gifted as anybody. I'm just so proud in our defensive effort. We talked about, hey, we could do a number of different things against them. A lot of people have been playing zone, but I felt like we could always go to that. But our man was really good. We had two mental lapses on our man … But I was super happy with our defense," Robinson said.
Not to be overshadowed by the Senior Night festivities was the play of junior post Micah Hodges, who had one of his best performances of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds in an encouraging effort on the eve of the postseason.
"I told them if I had a game ball to give, it'd be Micah Hodges. He's been so up and down. But that's the guy we saw all summer. For whatever reason, he's had good games, bad games. It's part of him being young. He's played basketball, but it's not been at this level of competition," Robinson said. "It was big. He really battled, hustled down the floor even if he made mistakes. I coached him hard and got on him a few times and he responded."
Along with the big night from Hodges, Hart also scored 17 points with four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Villa Rica will host the quarterfinal round of the Region 7-AAAAA Tournament on Tuesday night, facing the winner of Monday's play-in game between No. 8 East Paulding/No. 9 Woodland, Cartersville, but first it has the opportunity to avenge its lone loss of the season on Saturday night at 7:30 when the Cats host Hiram in a weather make-up.
"They've been playing well. What is unfortunate for them is (Saturday) night will be their fifth game in five days and their eighth game in 10 days," Robinson said of the Hornets. "I'm sure their legs are like Jell-O."