Nikc Simon/ Times-Georgian
The Carrollton High School boys' basketball team has been no strangers to tight, one-score ballgames all season long and its latest barnburner on Saturday earned the Trojans the present of a championship trophy just in time for Christmas.
Boosted by a frenzied fourth-quarter effort from sophomore Marcellious Lockett, the Trojans edged Greenville in a 66-63 nail-biter in the championship game of the Carrollton Christmas Tournament.
CHS Athletic director and interim head coach Paul Fitz-Simons was excited and relieved to see his young ballclub come up huge late in the title game.
"I'm so proud of these guys and how hard they play. To win that trophy and have Tim Criswell back with us is the best Christmas present in the world," Fitz-Simons said. "We made some stops, scored when we needed to and found a way to hang on at the end."
Carrollton (6-3) and Greenville engaged in a blow-for-blow battle through the first two quarters, resulting in CHS taking a slim 27-25 lead into halftime.
The Trojans would gain the upper hand at the beginning of the third quarter with a pair of Jeff Hodges 3's to extend their lead. But a series of 3-pointers from Patriot standouts D.J. Henry, Trae Mitchell and Tyler Stevenson would flip the game and give the visitors a 50-46 advantage heading into the fourth.
"We were trading scores in the third and we could never just put them away," Fitz-Simons said. "All of a sudden, they had momentum and took the lead."
Down 58-53 in the final frame, the game turned into the Lockett Show for Carrollton. The guard proceeded to score 10 straight points for the Trojans, including a go-ahead 3-pointer from with three minutes left in the ballgame. Mixing in a few well-timed free throws from point guard Ricky Rodriguez along with good defense, Carrollton managed to survive for the one-score win and secure the tournament crown.
Fitz-Simons cited the tournament title as a major confidence boost for his guys as they prepare for the second half of the regular season.
"It means everything for these guys to win three in a row in a tournament atmosphere," Fitz-Simons said. "We lost some this year where the end didn't go our way, so it means that this young team is learning. They gained some experience and that'll help us moving forward."
Carrollton will enjoy the Christmas holiday before heading to Forsyth for the Mary Persons Christmas Tournament later this week.