The Carrollton High School girls’ basketball coach got the full, 32-minute effort he’s desired from his ball club in a 64-29 home waxing of Alexander, marking three straight region routs after suffering back-to-back setbacks to open 5-AAAA play this month.
“This is the first game all year we’ve played four quarters — and we played four quarters with intensity,” Thomaston said. “I’ve got to be politically correct and say the right word here, but I’ve kind of been a rear end the last week and a half or so because I just haven’t been able to find the right buttons to push to get the team to play hard.
“But when they came out and announced the starting lineup, that little No. 10 [Treasure Matthews], she had so much fire about herself and she was so pumped up, my kids came back to the bench after they called our names out and said, ‘Oh, my god, we’ve got to play ball. They’re ready.’ I’m kind of glad that Alexander came out with some intensity, because it finally lit a spark in my kids and they played a complete game on both ends of the floor.”
Carrollton (12-4, 3-2 Region 5-AAAA) forced 37 turnovers and had 26 steals on the night behind its pressuring defense, setting up several runouts for easy buckets.
After taking a 14-11 lead after one quarter, the Lady Trojans busted the game open with a 22-5 second-quarter differential, opening on a 16-0 run that saw senior all-state guard Kenyata Hendrix score 12 of the 16 points during the stretch.
Carrollton proceeded to put the game away in the second half, building as big as a 39-point lead before Thomaston cleared the bench in the fourth quarter.
Hendrix led all scorers with 26 points to go along with five rebounds and five steals, while Brooklyn Emory added 16 points and five steals and Alecia North also hit double figures offensively with 12 points, eight rebounds and six steals.
Senior forward Tasmine Boykin had four points, four rebounds and three steals and Faith Swint didn’t hit the scorebook, but the sophomore guard contributed on both sides of the ball with six steals, five rebounds and four assists off the bench. Deanna Dorsey led Alexander (6-9, 2-3) with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Carrollton should have a much tighter contest on Friday night when it travels to Tyrone for a showdown with Sandy Creek (12-2, 4-0), which knocked off LaGrange for its sixth win in a row Tuesday evening.
“The thing is about Sandy Creek, it doesn’t matter the sport, you better be ready to play. I’m going to go in here and talk to my kids about bottling up that juice that they had. I don’t know what they had to eat before this game, but I’m going to make sure that they definitely eat it again,” Thomaston said. “I’m just proud of the effort that they played with. I know I’ve been a pessimist in the newspaper here lately about my girls. But coach is smiling now because he got the effort that he’s looking for.”
Alexander boys 71, Carrollton 63: The Trojans (9-6, 1-4) hung tight with the visiting Cougars (11-4, 3-2) and battled back to take a one-point lead entering the fourth quarter after guard Marcus Henderson drained a runner in the lane to beat the third quarter buzzer for the 48-47 edge.
But Alexander used its athletic weapons and a relentless full-court pressure to retake the lead for good early in the fourth, building as big as a nine-point advantage down the stretch before Carrollton made one last push.
Trailing 64-55, the Trojans got back-to-back buckets from Malik Sheppard, the second of which was an old-fashioned three-point play, to pull within 64-60 with 1:56 remaining. Alexander countered with a Mikell Lands field goal and then went 5-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final 53.5 seconds to seal the win.
And for Trojan assistant coach Paul Fitz-Simons and the rest of the staff, it was another gut-wrencher where his guys gave great effort but came up just short.
“A lot of credit goes to [Alexander] coach [Jason] Slate — let me put that first and foremost — he’s a great coach and he always gets good effort out of his guys. They deserved to win. They forced us into more turnovers than we would have liked to have [Tuesday]. You’ve got to credit them. They shot the ball better than us,” Fitz-Simons said. “Still, though, I’m so proud of our guys’ effort. They play so hard. They fought and clawed and scratched. I can’t help but think if we keep getting that effort and when everything settles down, these ‘L’s are going to start turning into ‘W’s.”
Henderson led all scorers with 18 points, while Carrollton got a big lift off the bench from sophomore forward Montae Glenn, who scored 15 points with 14 rebounds.
“We’re counting on him. When Riley Criswell is out, he’s not coming back and he’s taking those 25 points a game with him. So we’re looking up and down the lineup and we really think Montae Glenn is that guy that can step in and get us 15 points. With that effort, that 15 points may be able to turn into 25 by the end of the year,” Fitz-Simons said.
Sheppard added 10 points and Byron McCall finished with six points and eight rebounds. Karim Mawuenyega led four Alexander scorers in double figures with 16 points.
Carrollton will look to snap its four-game skid on Friday night when it travels to Tyrone for a battle with Sandy Creek (5-9, 0-4).
“Very tough. They’ll be very big, but I don’t expect a lot of pressure. Of course, we won’t ever see anything like this [Tuesday]. But I don’t expect a lot of pressure from them. They’re big and they’re athletic and we’ve just got to keep on grinding,” Fitz-Simons said.