The Tigers, needing a win to keep their season alive, instead fell to Fayette County 57-46 on Wednesday in the Region 5-AAAA tournament.
While Fayette County goes on to play in the semifinals on Friday, the season is over the Tigers, who beat Columbus on Monday in a play-in game.
The game was also the final one for Troup head coach Thermond Billingslea, who is retiring after three decades as a head coach, including the past 12 seasons at Troup.
“It’s kind of scary, but I know it’s time to go,” said Billingslea, who earlier this season won his 500th game as a head coach. “It’s been a big part of my life, for all of my life really, but we’ll figure out something to do.”
Billingslea leaves behind a successful program, and the new coach will inherit a team that will have a lot of talent in the fold.
“The program is in pretty good shape. I’m proud that we’re leaving it in good shape,” Billingslea said. “Whoever gets it will be able to come in here and keep rolling.”
The Tigers were a young team this season, with freshmen and sophomores filling out many of the key positions, but they competed well in a deep region.
“Going in, I knew we were going to be very young and inexperienced, and it was going to be tough winning in the region,” Billingslea said. “We fared pretty well in the region. Whoever we played, they had to play in order to win. That’s all you can ask for is to be competitive. And I thought we were.”
In Wednesday’s game, the Tigers were facing a Fayette County team they lost to twice during the regular season.
In Round 3, it was tight most of the way, but Fayette County was finally able to find some separation in the closing minutes, and it made its free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
“I told them after the game, I thought they did what we asked them to do,” Billingslea said. “They played as hard as they can play. I was real pleased.”
Billingslea said it was a veteran Fayette County team making the plays in the closing moments.
“Right at the end, we missed some crucial shots there at the end. And when we missed those shots, they capitalized. That’s what happens,” Billingslea said. “I attribute that to being inexperienced. Experienced teams find a way to do it, inexperienced teams, some times they can, sometimes they can’t. They’re up and down.”
Looking ahead, Billingslea predicts big things for the Tigers.
“The next few years ought to be good,” Billingslea said. “Whoever gets it should do a good job with it.”