MONTGOMERY - The cast of players change, but the Charles Henderson Trojan girls basketball team continue to earn annual postseason journeys to Birmingham for the state tournament.
The Trojans clinched their fifth trip in seven years to the event in the state’s most populous city on Monday, beating Wiregrass foe Carroll 46-24 in the Class 5A Southeast Regional Tournament championship at Montgomery’s Garrett Coliseum.
Charles Henderson (14-2) plays in the state semifinals Saturday morning at 9 a.m. at Birmingham’s Bill Harris Arena. The Trojans play the Northwest Regional champion which will be decided on Tuesday. The winner advances to the state championship game next Thursday, March 4.
The Trojans are the defending state champion and winners of two of the last three state titles.
Head coach Dyneshia Jones Elder said reaching the destination of Birmingham is nice, but continued to express concern about the COVID-19 virus.
“It feels great,” Elder said. “It feels great. The only problem is if we remain healthy in the next two weeks.”
She added making it this year to the state tournament featured different trials and tribulations.”
“This year has been rough because of COVID and everything else with players out and myself being out for a while,” Elder said. “Overall, it is a blessing to be here. It is not a surprise.”
Carroll, meanwhile, saw its season end with a 15-11 record, but not before making it to a regional final for the first time since 2011.
“I told them in the locker room that we accomplished a great deal,” Carroll head coach Dominique Jackson said. “We haven’t made it out of area (tournament) I know since I have been here in the last three years.
“To be able to make it to the (state) Elite Eight with the way the season has went with injuries to COVID to everything else we had to deal with, today was great. It was a great job by all the kids in the locker room from oldest to the youngest.”
Both teams struggled offensively out of the opening gate with the Trojans leading 8-4 as the quarter ended behind two baskets in the last two minutes by Kristian Jackson.
Both teams warmed up early in the second quarter with the Trojans scoring on three of five possessions and the Eagles on four of five. CHHS scored off a foul-line bank shot by Mileah Ward, a Raven Williams 3-pointer and 1-of-2 free throws by Makayla Hobdy, while Ta’Kayha Condrey scored on two layups and Zyiesha Carson scored on a 3-pointer and a drive for Carroll.
The early spurt by both made it 14-13 Charles Henderson with 5:02 left in the second quarter.
The Trojans then took control of the game, blitzing the Eagles over the next 16 minutes with a 32-5 run to midway in the fourth quarter to build a 46-18 advantage with 5:05 left.
“We adjusted a little bit on our rotations on defense and took the ball to the hole more (on offense) as they were leaving the lane open,” Elder said of the differences in the stretch compared to the first 11 minutes.
Carroll made only 3-of-27 shots in the game’s 21 minutes (only 11 points) and finished the game a frigid 19.5 percent shooting overall at 8-of-41. The Eagles also had 20 turnovers – 16 coming on Trojan steals.
“The difference was the inability to make shots in the third and fourth quarter,” Carroll’s Jackson said. “We had some open looks, some good looks, but we just couldn’t knock them down.”
Hobdy paced Charles Henderson with 16 points, 14 rebounds, four steals and three assists. Jackson followed with 15 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists. Deanna Gosha added seven points and nine rebounds.
Condrey paced Carroll with 16 points and Carson had five points and five rebounds, but the rest of the Eagles had only three points off 0-of-19 shooting. Ameyah Gray had a team-high nine rebounds.