Closing the regular season with a top-10 showdown at home on Saturday, the Carrollton High School girls' basketball team claimed one final marquee victory before this week's Region 7-AAAAA Tournament with a 58-48 triumph over Rome.
"That was a good effort from my girls and I'll take that from them almost every night," Lady Trojan head coach Shon Thomaston said. "They took what we tried to give to them as coaches and they did what we asked them to do."
Battling the No. 7 Lady Wolves (21-4, 13-3 Region 7-AAAAA) for the second time this season, the No. 8 Lady Trojans (20-5, 14-2) took advantage of a trio of 3-point shots from Ansley Barge to jump out to an early 13-3 lead in the first quarter. However, Rome would end the period on a 7-1 run and cut the CHS advantage down to four.
Led by junior guard Tarrah Gibson, the Lady Wolves began to put pressure on Carrollton to start the second quarter by scoring several baskets in transition. But the Lady Trojans always had an answer on their offensive end of the court with forwards Elexus Bell and Erial Daniel muscling their way to layup after layup under the basket. The home team would end the half up 33-26.
After starting the third quarter on a 5-0 run, the Lady Trojans went cold from the field as turnovers and fouls gave way to a 13-4 run by the Lady Wolves. Carrollton would find itself hanging on to a 42-39 lead heading into the fourth.
With players from both teams showing signs of fatigue from the physical contest in the final period, CHS once again gained the upper hand to create enough of a cushion. Barge, who finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, continually found her way to the foul line, while Daniel, who finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, once again got several outback opportunities in the post. A late layup by freshman De'Mauri Flournoy would finish the job and secure Carrollton's 20th victory of the season.
After suffering a one-point loss at Rome just 10 days prior, Thomaston was happy to see his players emerge victorious this time around.
"We were part of the same style of physical game when we went up there and I felt like we played a better game (Saturday)," Thomaston said. "We made a lot of mistakes that could have cost us the the chance to win, but we played hard enough to give ourselves opportunities. We did a good job of throwing the ball inside and forcing them to have to defend us in the lane because they don't really have an answer for our two post players (Bell and Daniel). I was concerned defensively because most of their baskets came in transition. But I thought we did a much better job of slowing them down in the second half."
With the victory, the Lady Trojans secured the two seed for the region tournament, where they will host seventh-seeded Woodland, Cartersville on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. for their first-round matchup. Carrollton dominated the Lady Wildcats in both regular-season games, but the veteran head coach knows that this isn't the time to start looking past opponents.
"This time of year, you can't overlook anybody and we're not going to take Woodland, Cartersville for granted," Thomaston said. "Anything can happen in tournament play and this is the round that can keep you from getting qualified for the state playoffs, so you better believe that we'll take them serious. Hopefully, if we come in and do what we're supposed to do to handle business, we'll be in the semifinals."
Carrollton girls 89, East Paulding 16: The Lady Trojans dominated Friday night's region contest, holding the Lady Raiders to single digits in each quarter, including just two second-half points.