Troup head coach Thermond Billingslea earned his 500th coaching career win.
Troup athletic director Robert Schweizer presented Billingslea with the game ball in an impromptu presentation after the game as team members, family and well-wishers surrounded the coach to help him celebrate the milestone.
The celebration continued in the locker room with a pizza party and various folks posing with Billingslea for photographs.
His son Courtney Billingslea was also on hand to celebrate with his father.
“It feels just great,” Billingslea said of the 500th win. “It was great for us to do that. Now that part is over with and now we can go on and play basketball and not have that hanging over our heads. It hangs over your heads in practice, they know it, I knew it and now we don’t have to worry about that. There won’t be no distraction in practice and I think we’ll do a better job of preparing for the next team.”
Troup’s last win came on Jan. 12 over Columbus, which was Billinglea’s 499th.
Anticipation was building the past two weeks as the Tigers ran up against some tough region competitors, losing games to Fayette County, LaGrange and Shaw.
Troup was also able to avenge an early-season defeat at Alexander on Jan. 4 when it lost 77-71 in overtime.
The Tigers (9-7 overall, 4-4 in the region) started off well, with senior point guard Lakeithin Buckner draining a 3-pointer from the right side to put the Tigers up.
Troup had no problems scoring in the first quarter as it ran the floor with little challenge from Alexander.
Troup extended its lead to 14 points before Alexander cut into it slightly and led 19-8 after the first quarter.
But signs of things to come were evident in the second quarter as Troup slowed a bit and Alexander gained some momentum, cutting the lead to 35-30 at the half.
In third quarter, Alexander went up by as many as four points, but Troup rallied to take a 45-43 lead heading into the final quarter.
“They’re a good defensive team and they’re real strong and quick,” Billingslea said of Alexander. “We don’t have a ton of ball handlers and we threw the ball away a lot but we finally settled in and made some good passes and got the ball up the floor.”
In the final period, with Buckner leading the way, Troup pulled away.
Buckner poured in 33 points in the game, with 16 coming in the fourth, with eight of those points coming from the free-throw line.
“I thought we stepped it up and we kept on working,” Billingslea said. “We got a two-point lead, then we got a five, then a six and it kept building from there.”
In the girls game, Troup lost to Alexander 71-22.
Coach Carla Thornton said she learned prior to the game that senior Jessica Gilbert, who suffered a knee injury against LaGrange a week ago, will not return this season due to a torn ACL in her right knee.
Thornton believes the news may have impacted the team.
“Maybe that’s why the girls were so down,” Thornton said of the news about Gilbert. “That can affect people emotionally. I found the news out right before the game.”
Troup lost at Alexander in the first meeting between the two teams 40-28.
The Lady Tigers were in that game late before Alexander pulled away. With the rematch being played on Troup’s home court, Thornton felt going in her team had a chance, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“We just lacked energy,” Thornton said. “I’ve been stressing that the girls need to go out there and have some heart. That’s something I can’t teach. It just seemed like we were out there going through the motions. I guess we figured since it was a close game last time, it would be the same, but they came out and outhustled us from the get-go.”
Sophomore Dee Dee Sanders led the scoring for the Lady Tigers with 10 points.
Troup’s teams host Sandy Creek today, with the girls’ game tipping off at 6 p.m.