Facing a long and athletic Seminole squad in the opening round of the Carrollton Christmas Tournament, the Trojans had to scrap and claw their way to a 51-38 victory on Wednesday evening, advancing into Friday night’s semifinal round where they’ll face the winner of today’s matchup between Randolph-Clay and Riverdale.
As for Wednesday, Criswell was just happy to come out on top following a back-and-forth first half that saw the Trojans (5-1) make a late push to secure a six-point lead at 28-22 going into the locker room.
“I tell you, they are hard to guard man-to-man. They’re just so strong and athletic. They just put their head down and get to the basket. We felt like if we could zone them and make them score from the perimeter some, it would help us. And it did. It slowed the game down a little bit and kept them from scoring as much in the latter part of the first half and in the second half,” Criswell said.
Carrollton built on its halftime lead in the third quarter, stretching it to a game-high 14 points on two separate occasions, but the Seminoles wouldn’t go away quietly.
With the Trojans leading 44-32 early in the fourth, Creekside got three straight buckets to pull within six at 44-38 with 5:10 left, but the Carrollton defense didn’t allow a point from that point on to advance into the semis.
“We tried to change it up just enough so they couldn’t get comfortable against the zone in the second half. But that was our main goal, to play more zone and then mix in some man and halfcourt trap. They struggled scoring and we got enough on the offensive end to stay ahead of them,” Criswell said.
And though the Trojans struggled a bit to put the game away — going 5-of-12 from the free-throw line in the final 3:04 — they were able to stall and run a lot of clock on the offensive end to keep the Seminoles at a safe distance.
“We did a good job of taking care of the ball. We turned it over there one time — a guy sneaked in behind somebody to knock it loose — but we did a good job right there at the end,” Criswell said.
Carrollton senior forward Riley Criswell led all scorers with 22 points, while fellow senior forward Byron McCall also had a big night, dropping in 21 points and also taking four charges on the defensive end.
“[McCall], really, I felt like played one of his better games. When he’s scoring like that and we can get a little more from our guards scoring ... Riley had a decent night, so we’ve just got to continue to find ways to score and continue to find out what we can do best on defense. But it was a good win. It was a good win against an athletic team that’s better than their record,” Tim Criswell said.
In other quarterfinal action from Wednesday:
Greater Atlanta Christian boys 72, Lithia Springs 60: The Spartans (8-0) were led by Collin Swinton’s 20-point effort, while Neil Phillips led all scorers for the Lions (7-3) with 27 points. GAC will face the winner of today’s Chapel Hill/Oxford (Ala.) contest at 5:30 p.m. on Friday in the semifinals, while Lithia Springs falls into the consolation bracket, where it will take on the loser of today’s quarterfinal game on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at East Carroll.