The Lady Trojans (5-0) begin that quest tonight at 7 when they play host to Banneker in the opening round of the Carrollton Christmas Tournament. Coach Shon Thomaston said while the visiting Lady Trojans — Banneker shares the same monicker as Carrollton — are struggling a bit right now at 1-4, there’s never an excuse to look past anyone, especially in your own tournament.
“I know they’re trying to get those girls playing hard and they’ve been playing hard. I think right now they’re just lacking some talent and skill and fundamentals. So hopefully we’ll take advantage of their lack of those things and handle business the way we’re supposed to,” Thomaston said.
“For us, the big thing is just to execute, play hard, play well and advance. If you host a tournament, it won’t look good on us to not be playing the late game on the second night of our own tournament. So hopefully my kids understand that that’s important for us to not look at the other team’s record or play down to what we think they might be. We’ve got to be prepared for whatever. You never know when somebody’s going to play above their head.”
Though Banneker hasn’t enjoyed much success on the hardwood recently, the other program’s in the eight-team bracket are certainly nothing to sneeze at when you’re talking about the likes of Monroe (8-0), Chapel Hill (5-1), Greater Atlanta Christian (6-1), Lithia Springs (6-3), Riverdale (6-6) and Randolph-Clay.
The Carrollton/Banneker winner will face whichever team survives the Randolph-Clay/Riverdale matchup on Thursday night in a semifinal showdown on Friday evening at 7. In the bottom portion of the bracket, Chapel Hill and Monroe meet at 7 p.m. on Thursday, while the GAC/Lithia Springs quarterfinal bout is set for 4 p.m. today to tip off the tournament.
“It’s a stacked tournament. They’re all good. We’ve got some real good competition coming in here. I’m expecting some quality play out of all these teams that show up,” Thomaston said.
Carrollton will get a boost tonight with the return of senior guard Randi Phillips to the lineup after she missed the first five games due to a shoulder injury suffered during softball season, though the diagnosis wasn’t so good for senior Taylor Love.
The 6-foot-2 center learned on Tuesday that she suffered an ACL tear to her left knee, and Thomaston said it’s a tough pill to swallow at the moment. The Lady Trojan coach said Love’s status for the remainder of the season is questionable for the time being.
“You know, we’re going to seek a second opinion and just hope for some better news the second time around. We don’t know the severity of the tear. We’re not saying that she’s definitely not going to play this season. If it’s a partial tear, we’ll explore all options to see if she can brace up and play and if she’s got to have surgery, do it at the end of the season,” Thomaston said.
And while Thomaston is hopeful Love can return to the court during her final prep season, he also assured that the team is going to do what’s best for her big-picture future, as well.
“Forget what’s happening with our team. We’ve got to take care of one of our own. She was distraught [Tuesday] when we got that news — I was distraught, the team was distraught about it. We’re a big family over here. A lot of times, when a player goes down, somebody steps up. That’s how we prepare our kids to play. But you just don’t lose 6-2 and just fill that spot. But I think my girls work hard enough for us to rally and still be the team that we always wanted to be at the end season,” Thomaston said.
But right now, the focus is on improving every time it steps on the floor, and Carrollton is looking forward to the opportunity to get some high-quality games in over the final two weeks of the calendar year before tipping off region play on Jan. 4 against Columbus.
“Hopefully, everything that we’re doing right now is preparing us for a tough region competition. That’s why we’ve put ourselves in a position to face tougher people in these holiday tournaments,” Thomaston said. “Everybody wants a real good record and things like that. But to me, we’ve won a lot of ball games over the years. Right now, winning the ball game is not the most important thing. It’s preparing ourselves to be able to handle some of these region opponents, and that’s actually what is most important to me right now.”