VALDOSTA -- Valdosta High is ready to finally begin the Region 1-AAAAA season, the part of the season which counts in the standings.

Valdosta opens the heart of the region season tonight at home, hosting Colquitt County. The girls begin at 7 p.m., with the boys to follow afterwards.

It should be a spirited affair. As one former Valdosta coach once said, "It's Moultrie. It's always big, no matter what's on the line."

What will be on the line is both pride and, more importantly, positioning in the region standings. These are two playoff-caliber teams, in both genders.

"It's a big game," Valdosta boys head coach John Miller said. "You want to win all your region home games. Also, since it's the start of the region season, we'd like to start it with a win."

Miller's troops have already squared off with the Colquitt boys once this season. The Wildcats defeated the Packers 15 days ago, 60-44, in the semifinals of a tournament in Thomasville. That game gave Valdosta a good idea how it will stack up with the Packers tonight. Colquitt is small, without much size in the middle. Valdosta, on the other hand, will play four players 6-foot-3 or taller. Size advantage, Valdosta.

That game also showed the Wildcats how feisty the Packers could be. Colquitt caused a number of VHS turnovers, and the game was tied at halftime, 19-19.

"They're a good team. Coach (Keith) Hall does a good job with them," Miller said.

Valdosta has had a balanced attack so far, with no one player dominating the statistics. That's not a problem, as the Wildcats are a deep team, rotating as many as 10 or 11 players on the floor.

The Lady Wildcats seem to be hitting their stride just in time for the region season.

The Lady 'Cats (5-4) had hit a lull before Christmas, dropping four straight games playing without two injured starters. But last week, Valdosta returned to its old winning ways, winning three straight in a tournament in Atlanta. In the second win, Valdosta overcame a 17-point deficit to Clarkston in the fourth quarter to win on Elizabeth Petit's three-pointer at the buzzer, 64-63.

The next night, the Lady Wildcats hammered Columbia 82-39. Chelsa Williams had a triple-double, scoring a career-high 31 points, along with 12 rebounds, 10 steals and nine assists.

It's been mainly seniors Petit, Williams and Tori Williams and sophomore point guard Tamara Petersen, the four with considerable playing experience, doing the job for the Lady 'Cats. Again, head coach Deidre Williams is getting the most out of a small, quick team.

The intensity should be high for the girls' showdown. Both have things to avenge from last season.

The Lady Packers defeated Valdosta four times in the regular season last year, much to VHS' dismay. Then came the region tournament semifinal on Feb. 16.

On that February afternoon, the Lady Wildcats turned their gym into the Little Bighorn, and Colquitt's girls into General Custer's army. It was 21-5 after one quarter, and ended 64-38.

Colquitt would wind up with the region's third seed, instead of the No. 2 it expected to get, and lost in the first round of the state playoffs.

That 26-point loss to Valdosta still lingers in the Lady Packers' minds, and they've said they want vengeance.

They'll get their chance tonight. And in the same gym, though with a different floor.



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