In front of a packed gym for the Carrollton High School boys' basketball team's Region 7-AAAAA opener against Villa Rica on Tuesday night, Jeff Hodges ended up being the hero for the home squad.
Tied with seven seconds remaining in a tie ballgame, the senior buried a step-back three to lift the Trojans to a narrow 48-45 win over their Wildcat archnemesis.
After the game, CHS head coach Tim Criswell was pumped to see his ballclub pull out a hard-fought rivalry victory.
"It was a great game. It's a rival game and that's what kids do in those games, they play," Criswell said. "I felt like we got off to a pretty good start and (Villa Rica) answered the bell. It was just back and forth and then Hodges hit a big shot when we needed one."
Taking a 27-20 lead into halftime, Carrollton (3-2, 1-0 Region 7-AAAAA) saw its lead slowly diminish as Villa Rica (1-3, 0-1) came roaring right back into the fold.
Down 38-36 early in the fourth, the Wildcats eventually went up by three when a Micah Hodges turnaround jumper gave them a 43-40 advantage.
That lead would be short-lived, however, as Melvin Edwards would sink one from downtown on the next Trojan possession to tie the ballgame.
After retaking the lead with a Jamisen Winters layup midway through the fourth, the Trojans stalled on offense and played keep away from the Purple and Gold defense for a solid two minutes before eventually drawing a foul.
At the line with less than a minute left, senior point guard Ricky Rodriguez missed the attempt, allowing for VR to finally regain possession.
Capitalize on that possession is exactly what they did as after drawing a foul of his own, VR's Hodges went to the charity stripe and sunk a pair of clutch free throws to tie the ballgame at 45-all.
That's where the game-winning sequence by Carrollton's Hodges came into effect, a sequence that Coach Criswell said was started by junior guard Marcellious Locket.
"The thing that's interesting is that when (Micah Hodges) went to the free throw line, (Lockett) told me 'coach, if he makes them, let me have the ball and I'll get somebody a shot. I'll create a shot for somebody else.' So he drove right in there and kicked it out to Jeff Hodges. Hodges took a step to the side, shot it and made it," Criswell said. "Great decision by Marcellious, who's our leading scorer. I told him that's very unselfish for him to think that he can get somebody else a good shot. That reminds me of a guy who wants to win for his team rather than win for himself."
Villa Rica will try to bounce back this Friday at 8:30 p.m. when traveling to Bremen. Carrollton will try to notch region win No. 2 on Friday at 7:30 p.m. when heading to Hiram.
"We've got two more tough region games this weekend with Hiram and Paulding County," Criswell said. "They're both good, so it'll be a similar game to what we just played."