In a game it led from start to finish, the Carrollton High School boys' basketball team answered a late charge from Cass with a final run of its own to close out a critical 56-50 Region 7-AAAAA clash on Friday night.
The Trojans (10-4, 3-2 Region 7-AAAAA) built as big as a 15-point lead late in the third quarter, but the Colonels (9-5, 3-3) didn't go down quietly, rattling off a 13-0 run between the end of the third quarter and first three minutes of the fourth to pull within 37-35 and threaten to rally past the Black and Gold.
But Carrollton responded in resounding fashion, beginning with an old-fashioned three-point play by senior post Tim Green to stop the bleeding and inject a boost of energy for the stretch run.
Carrollton interim head coach Paul Fitz-Simons continues to get tremendous effort from his young squad, and he thought Friday night proved to be a microcosm of the season thus far.
"It's also big that they beat us here last year. They beat us here and to beat them here with everything that has happened this year, it says a lot about this group right here and these coaches," Fitz-Simons said.
Carrollton received an early offensive jolt from junior wing Jeffrey Hodges, who scored eight of his 12 points in the first quarter to help the Trojans jump out to a 14-9 lead through eight minutes of play.
"Jeffrey has done a great job for us this year. He doesn't get the notice as some of the other guys on our team, but he's another guy that hasn't played a varsity game until this year," Fitz-Simons said. "He's embraced his role. He's one of our best defenders. He's been stroking it pretty good from the wing, so I'm proud for Jeffrey."
Green knocked down some big shots in the second quarter to keep Carrollton in front by a 28-20 count heading into the locker room and the Trojans opened the second half on a 9-2 run for the 37-22 advantage before Cass made its late push.
Carrollton's big guns of Green and sophomore Marcellious Lockett stepped up in the final minutes to seal the deal, though, combining for 30 points on the night.
Green led all scorers with 18 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots, while Hodges added 14 points and nine rebounds and Lockett posted 12 points.
Melvin Edwards, Isaiah Lancaster and Ricky Rodriguez chipped in four points apiece for Carrollton with Edwards pulling down game-high 10 rebounds and Lancaster tallying six caroms. Cass was paced by Carter Hedden with 11 points.
Now five games through the region schedule — with a home date against East Paulding on tap for Saturday at 4:30 p.m. — the Trojans are sitting in a good position to make some noise in 7-AAAAA during the second half of the league slate if they can continue to grind out these tight wins over the course of the next month.
"We felt like we let two get away with Villa Rica and Paulding (County), but to be honest with you we've probably won a couple that we shouldn't have, too," Fitz-Simons said. "So we're probably right where we're supposed to be. We've got a young, young team. They'll all probably be like this the rest of the way. But I feel like we're right where we should be."