The Trojans (12-6, 4-4 Region 5-AAAA) came out and took control of the game early, building a 20-10 lead after the opening quarter and taking a 32-17 lead into the locker room before stretching it to as much as 19 early in the second half.
But a pesky Blue Devil ball club wouldn’t go away quietly on this night.
Columbus (3-13, 0-7) rode the hot hand of Marvin Lloyd early in the third quarter — knocking down three consecutive 3-pointers — to ignite a 13-4 run and pull the Blue Devils within 10 points at the 2:25 mark of the third quarter. The visitors cut it down to eight points on three different occasions in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, but every time the Trojans had an answer. Carrollton went 6-of-6 from the line to close out the game and an emotional victory.
Riley Criswell came out with the squad from the locker room before the game in a wheelchair to a standing ovation, and Trojan coach Tim Criswell said his son was happy to be back around his teammates, just as they were glad to see him again.
“Yeah, it was. Riley misses it. He told the guys after the game that he misses it like crazy. I’m really proud of the way the seniors have stepped up. It’s tough. It’s been really tough on all of us. Riley’s a great kid and has worked hard to get to this point. It’s just a tragic thing what’s happened to him, but we’re just putting our trust in the Lord and He’s going to handle it for us. He’ll be around a little more. He’s getting a little better and a little better. We’re thankful he was able to be here [Friday]. It gave us a lift,” Tim Criswell said.
On the court, it was Trojan sophomore forward Montae Glenn giving Carrollton the big lift, posting a double-double with 12 points and 16 rebounds, while guard Marcus Henderson added 11 points and forward Byron McCall scored nine points with five rebounds. In the balanced attack, seven Trojans scored at least six points, with Malik Sheppard, Javarious Jackson and Cooper Criswell dropping in eight and Will Hesterlee finishing with six.
Tim Criswell said different guys are stepping up big every night, and that is what it’s going to take to keep earning wins down the stretch of the season. On Friday night, it was Glenn enjoying the lead role.
“He got 12 [Friday] and probably had the opportunity to get 16 or 20. But he’s on the boards with Byron. We’ve got good size and their athleticism. We’ve just got to find our way. We’ll figure it out. Montae’s a big part of it,” Tim Criswell said.
Carrollton remains home today to host Fayette County in a 4:30 p.m. region battle.
Carrollton girls 43, Columbus 35: The Lady Trojans (14-5, 5-3) accomplished quite a bit in Friday’s home win — avenged a region road loss, made ground in the 5-AAAA standings and held court at home. And for Carrollton coach Shon Thomaston, all of that factored into a must-win ball game against the long and athletic Lady Blue Devils.
“That was absolutely a game that we had to have. I mean, losing that game was not an option for several different reasons. We lost to them the first time at their place. With the tie-breaker situations in the region going into tournament, now that we’ve got the win over Sandy Creek and they’ve already beat [Columbus], that kind of gives us a little bit of edge. Even though there’s still a lot of games to be played. But it’s good to know that of all the good teams in this region, we still haven’t played our best ball,” Thomaston said.
Carrollton got off to a slow start on Friday, trailing 7-5 after the first quarter and falling behind 11-5 early in the second before senior guard Kenyata Hendrix knocked down a trey at the 4:53 mark — just the Lady Trojans’ second field goal of the game to that point — to retake the lead at 12-11. Hendrix gave her squad a five-point halftime advantage at 22-17 by going coast-to-coast in the closing seconds of the second quarter for a lay-up just before the buzzer.
Columbus battled back to knot the game up at 24-all early in the third before the Lady Trojans used an 8-2 run to close the period, giving them a 32-26 lead going into the fourth.
From there, Carrollton built its biggest lead of the night at 10 points on an Alecia North bucket, with the Lady Blue Devils making one last push. Columbus cut the deficit to six points on an Alexia Manning free throw with 1:44 left in the game, but that would be the final point it scored, though, as the Lady Trojan defense held the visitors scoreless the rest of the way.
Free throws were once again an issue for the Lady Trojans, as they went 5-of-12 from the line in the fourth quarter and 8-of-16 for the second half.
Thomaston said it is something his team has got to correct in these tight games.
“All of the games we’ve lost in the region is because we didn’t finish. I don’t know if it’s the right thing to say at the time, but I guess I can say we finished the game [Friday],” Thomaston said. “I felt like had we just made more free throws, it would have been out of the question. But we love excitement, I guess.”
Hendrix posted 12 points with six rebounds and three assists, while Tasmine Boykin also dropped in 12 points with eight rebounds and North added seven points and eight boards. Junior forward Brooklyn Emory only scored two points, but pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds. Malariah Ranson had a solid game off the bench, scoring six points.
Columbus was led by Jacqueria Gunter with nine points, while Shardonee Hayes had eight points with 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.
The Lady Trojans have a quick turnaround for today’s 3 p.m. contest, where they have a chance to avenge another region road loss against Fayette County.
“We’ve got to forget about this one now, because we’ve got mighty Fayette County coming in [today]. That’s going to be another tough one. But if we play, we have a chance to have a victory. We’re going to give it our best shot,” Thomaston said.