Fueled by a flurry of deep balls and a smothering defensive display, the Carrollton High School girls' basketball team delivered a dominant effort in its 80-36 victory over St. Pius X on Thursday evening.
The third-ranked Lady Trojans (2-1) knocked down 12 3-pointers and placed five scorers in double-figures offensively for a second straight commanding decision after suffering a tough setback in the season opener to fellow state power and second-ranked Flowery Branch.
But after back-to-back promising performances, Carrollton head coach Shon Thomaston is feeling good about what's in store for 2017-18. And, of course, with the veteran Lady Trojan head coach, it all starts on the defensive side of the ball.
"To be honest with you, we really haven't been doing that great of a job of it until the second half of the Columbia ballgame on Saturday night. I kind of saw it coming together the last couple of practices that we had and I thought we were showing signs of being the defensive team that I thought we should be," Thomaston said. "But playing that scrimmage game and playing Flowery Branch, I wasn't so sure if we were going to be good on defense this year. But it's amazing what getting a couple of games under your belt can do for you and remember what we're all about."
Carrollton led from start to finish on Thursday evening, jumping ahead 20-8 through one quarter of play and taking a 42-14 advantage into the locker room led by a 14-point effort from senior guard Taylor Brown.
Brown would finish with a game-high 19 points, followed by Erial Daniel with 15 points and five boards, Elexus Bell and De'mauri Flournoy with 13 apiece and Ansley Barge with 11 points and a team-best eight rebounds. St. Pius (2-3) was paced by junior guard Emma Drash with 17 points.
The Lady Trojans kept their foot on the gas in the third, opening the second half on an 11-3 run to put the game away.
With the 3-ball falling at a fast and furious rate, it opened up a lot of things for Carrollton, and it's something Thomaston hopes to see continue with Region 7-AAAAA play right around the corner.
"I'd also been concerned about what kind of shooting team we were going to be and the last two ballgames we've shot the 3-ball very well and when you do that, it opens it up. We like to play inside," Thomaston said. "That opens the game up for us when we start hitting some 3s. Hopefully, we continue to have that inside-outside game going. That's something we're going to bottle up and make sure we take with us every time we show up."
Carrollton returns to action on Tuesday night when it plays host to Woodland, Cartersville in the region opener at 6 p.m.
No. 3 St. Pius X boys 74, Carrollton 54: Facing the defending state runner-up and one of the state title contenders once again in Class AAAA this year, the Trojans (1-1) fell in an early 11-0 hole before rallying back to a 24-16 deficit through eight minutes of play in the home opener.
The host squad pulled within 27-23 midway through the second quarter, but the Golden Lions (4-0) answered with back-to-back treys and closed the half on an 8-2 spurt for the 43-29 advantage at the break. St. Pius hit eight 3-pointers through 16 minutes of play and 11 for the night.
The gutsy play of Carrollton continued in the third quarter, though, opening the half on a 10-2 run to make it a six-point game, but the Golden Lions simply had too much firepower and pulled away down the stretch.
Even so, interim Trojan head coach Paul Fitz-Simons was proud of the effort from his troops, who return just two starters from last year's squad.
"They're very good, ranked very high and deservingly so. They're a very, very good team," Fitz-Simons said of the Golden Lions. "But we were telling our guys if they keep giving us that effort every night, we're going to win more than we lose. They play that style of ball where it's really kind of hard to get anything. They throw two at you and you've got to kick it on the sideline and get it up the middle and get a quick bucket when you can. But I'm proud of them. They hung in there and they fought like Trojans."
Carrollton sophomore Marcellious Lockett led all scorers with 15 points, while Tim Green posted 12 points, Ricky Rodriguez added nine and Jeffrey Hodges finished with eight.
St. Pius featured a balanced attack with five players scoring eight points or more, led by Troy Stephens and Kennedy Willis with 14 apiece.
Carrollton remains home to host Harris County at 1 p.m. on Saturday before tipping Region 7-AAAAA action on Tuesday night at home against Woodland, Cartersville.