After Lakeithin Buckner converted a three-point play with 1:57 remaining,what had been a nine-point deficit moments earlier had been trimmed to four by the Tigers, and there was plenty of time to play.
The veteran LaGrange Grangers were up to the challenge, though.
Baron Smith completed a three-point play of his own with 1:48 remaining to push the Grangers’ lead to seven, and they led by at least six points the rest of the way en route to a 65-59 victory before a packed house at LaGrange High.
“They had their run, and they came back,” said Justyn Olson, one of nine LaGrange seniors honored before the game. “But we stayed poised. In the end, we were able to finish.”
Troup head coach Thermond Billingslea said in the crucial closing stretch that it was a matter of the Grangers doing a better job of taking care of the basketball.
“They didn’t turn it over, and we did,” Billingslea said. “That’s the experience. That makes a difference.”
The Tigers lost despite a terrific effort by Buckner, who finished with 32 points, including 21 points in the second half.
Buckner made five 3-pointers.
“He’s everywhere,” LaGrange head coach Mike Pauley said. “He shoots threes, he drives the lane. He draws a lot of fouls. He’s good.”
Demetrius Trammell added 10 points for Troup, and he had eight of those points in the fourth quarter.
The Grangers had a bit more balance offensively, with Olson leading the way with 18 points, while Baron Smith added 13 points, and he made six-of-seven free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter.
Post player Joe Sanders contributed 10 points, and Kwame Brown scored nine.
The game was tied 25-25 at the half after the Grangers overcame a 20-15 deficit with 4:15 remaining in the second quarter.
The Grangers tried to create some separation in the third period, and they went up by as many as seven points when Olson came up with a steal and a layup to push the lead to 37-30.
Behind Buckner, the Tigers rallied.
Buckner scored 10 straight points during one stretch that cut LaGrange’s lead to 39-37 with 1:30 left in the quarter, and the Grangers took a 43-38 lead into the final period.
Once again LaGrange threatened to put it away, seizing a 50-41 lead with 5:12 left to play on an Olson bucket.
The Tigers, as they’d done all night, responded.
When Trammell dropped in a 3-pointer with 2:48 left, LaGrange’s lead was down to 52-48.
Brown answered for the Grangers with a 3-pointer at the 2:05 mark, but Buckner’s 3-point play again made it a four-point game.
After the Grangers went back up by nine, Buckner’s 3-pointer with 44 seconds left got the Tigers within six at 62-56.
The Grangers made three free throws on their end to go up by nine, and Buckner capped the scoring with yet another 3-pointer, but there were only seconds left in the game and the comeback attempt was over.
Pauley liked the patience his team showed on offense in the fourth quarter.
“In the fourth quarter, we had several late possessions where we really did work the ball,” Pauley said. “And that paid off for us.”
With two regular-season games remaining, the Grangers (17-7 overall) improved to 8-4 in the region, and they’re still in the hunt to secure one of the region’s top two seeds for the region tournament.
LaGrange will be on the road for games against Carrollton on Friday and Columbus on Saturday.
The Tigers (9-11 overall) fell to 4-7 in the region with one regular-season remaining, and they’re sixth out of eight teams in the region.
Troup closes the regular season on Friday against Shaw.