Having played only one game over the past week, the Carrollton High School girls' basketball team is itching to hit the court against fierce competition over the next three days.

And fierce competition is exactly what the Lady Trojans will get when they welcome six other schools from around the state to Criswell Court for the annual Carrollton Christmas Tournament.

With first-round games beginning at noon today, participants in this year's tournament include Locust Grove, Central Gwinnett, Chestatee, Valdosta, Pebblebrook and Martin Luther King, whom the Lady Trojans will tip off against tonight at 6 p.m. With a team having to drop late, Pebblebrook will receive a first-round bye.

Veteran Carrollton head coach Shon Thomaston has hosted several of these holiday tournaments throughout his career, but he finds this one intriguing because of the unfamiliar competitors.

"For us, we're getting a lot of non-traditional teams that we normally wouldn't get," Thomaston said. "Clayton, Fulton and Cobb county are all represented. Then you have a team like Valdosta making the long trip up here, so we've got a good variety of teams coming from different locations throughout the state. We feel like we have some strong teams coming in here that can hopefully make the tournament worthwhile for everyone involved."

With only six games of regular-season action under their belt, Thomaston fully understands that his team is nowhere near a finished product right now.

But neither are its opponents and tournaments like these create the perfect chance for teams to iron things out and find out who they really are.

"We feel fortunate to be able to put this on and give everyone a chance to get better through the Christmas holiday," Thomaston said. "We do this for the sole purpose of creating a state-like tournament environment."

With these next three days serving as a starting point, the Lady Trojans will be hitting the ground running throughout the rest of the month, eventually rubbing elbows with some of the nation's top teams.

"We'll be leaving next Wednesday to play in a tournament in Hampton, Virginia," Thomaston said. "This is the appetizer to us going up there and playing some of the toughest teams we've ever seen."

The Carrollton Christmas Tournament championship game will take place at 6 p.m. on Saturday with a trophy presentation to follow. Whether Thomaston's team is present for that or not doesn't matter much to him. This time of the year is about steady improvement and making sure that the team isn't peaking too soon.

"I couldn't care less about our record right now or what anybody else is doing," Thomaston said. "We're just trying to get better as a team because everything that is happening right now is just the lead up to what we hope is something that will be bigger and better for us."

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