CARROLLTON — Cinderalla hung around for quite a while Tuesday night, but the clock finally struck midnight — right at the end of the third quarter, to be exact.
Fresh off its last-second upset win over top-seeded Franklin County, the No. 4 seed Chestatee Lady War Eagles trailed by just four points late in the third quarter against No. 2 Carrollton in the second-round Class AAA state playoff game. But the game changed when Lady Trojans point guard Alyssa Jones forced a five-second call and a turnover.
With just 8.7 seconds remaining in the quarter, Carrollton senior guard Karisma Boykin took the inbounds pass, calmly dribbled to the top of the key and drained a 3-pointer, giving the home team a 28-21 edge heading into the final eight minutes of play.
Using that huge momentum swing, the Lady Trojans (29-2) went on to outscore Chestatee 12-3 in the final quarter for the 40-24 victory.
“Had we not got that basket, who knows what would have happened,” Carrollton coach Shon Thomaston said. “They were just trying to keep it close til the end of the game, hoping they’d have a chance to win. That’s the same game plan that they used at Franklin County. But we made some big stops when we had to have them, and we made key buckets when we had to have them.”
Jones’ big-play ability shined again at the start of the fourth quarter, forcing a turnover under the Chestatee basket and going coast-to-coast for a spinning layup to push the lead to nine. Then, at the 6:04 mark, Jones knocked down her first trey of the game to make it a 33-21 contest, Carrollton’s biggest lead of the night to that point.
The Lady Trojans’ pressure defense then put the game on ice, as Chestatee (17-12) didn’t score a single field goal the entire fourth quarter.
“They just locked down defensively,” Lady War Eagles coach Web Daniel said. “This is the first time we’ve been here. We didn’t understand how to take that kind of pressure. We don’t have the speed and strength to emulate that, so I can’t really describe it.”
Carrollton, which led 16-9 at halftime in the low-scoring affair, didn’t necessarily play at its best Tuesday night, but Thomaston said the name of the game now is survive and advance — and that’s all that really matters.
“At this point of the season, style points don’t count,” Thomaston said. “It’s all about getting the win. I told (assistant) coach (Joey) King, ‘That might be the ugliest ‘W’ we’ve had all year,’ and he said, ‘Coach, ain’t no ‘W’ ugly.’ And I agree with him.”
Thomaston had high praise for a young Chestatee team that played seven sophomores and two juniors Tuesday night and only loses one senior.
“Cinderella was pretty good if you really want to know the truth,” Thomaston said. “They tried to actually make us play their style of game. We tried to make them play our style of game. And when all was said and done, I don’t know if anybody played any kind of style (Tuesday).”
Boykin led Carrollton offensively with 11 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three assists, while Kelsi Billings (10 points, six rebounds) and Jones (nine points, three assists) also had solid nights.
Peyton Robertson (15 points, eight rebounds) led Chestatee.
Chestatee’s season is now complete.