State tournament gets started

Published 12:27 am Friday, February 17, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – The state basketball tournament gets under way today, with teams across the state looking to keep their seasons alive for at least one more game.

Locally, there will be four games today, and two more on Saturday as the teams from Callaway, LaGrange and Troup get started.

Both Callaway teams finished second in Region 5-AA to earn the right to be at home, and they will host games today.

Callaway girls’ team will play Dade County at 6 p.m., and the Callaway boys’ team will face Coosa at 7:30 p.m.

The LaGrange Lady Grangers, after finishing second in Region 5-AAAA, will be at home against Marist today at 7 p.m.

The Troup Lady Tigers, the number four seed from Region 5-AAAA, will visit West Hall today at 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday, the LaGrange Grangers and Troup Tigers will take the court.

Troup, the fourth-place finisher from Region 5-AAAA, will be on the road against Blessed Trinity at 5 p.m.

LaGrange, after winning the Region 5-AAAA championship, will host West Hall at 7 p.m.

Callaway’s teams, despite falling in the region-championship games to Heard County, head into the state tournament playing well.

The Cavaliers (11-10) have won eight of their past 11 games, and they came close to winning their fifth straight region-tournament title.

Callaway pushed Heard County to the limit on its home floor before falling 79-72.

The Cavaliers are led by senior all-region players Braylon Sanders and Tamarcus Smith, who have both had big seasons.

Sanders has been a starter on three previous teams that made it to the state tournament, including the 2014 team that reached the final four before falling to Buford.

Coosa (14-14) lost in the semifinals of the Region 7-AA tournament to Chattooga, but it bounced back to beat Dade County 78-74 to secure the number three seed.

The Callaway Lady Cavaliers struggled to an 0-8 record in non-region play, but they turned a corner once they began their Region 5-AA schedule.

Callaway (8-12) has won eight of its past 12 games, and it made it to the Region 5-AA title game before falling to Heard County for the third time this season.

Callaway is led by its all-region players, guards KiKi Owens, KeKe Talley, Qua Beasley, as well as post players Chyna Cameron and Haley Holliday.

Callaway’s opponent is Dade County (19-8), which beat Pepperell 51-41 in the Region 7-AA third-place game.

The LaGrange Lady Grangers finished second in the Region 5-AAAA tournament to secure a home game for the state tournament.

LaGrange (16-11) has won eight of its past 10 games, with the only two losses coming to Sandy Creek.

Junior guard Aryan Dozier has had a huge season, and she has routinely been scoring more than 20 points per game this season.

Fellow junior guard Chnaireia Strozier has also had a big season, as has senior post player Shania Woodard.

Marist (11-14) finished third in Region 7-AAAA.

The Troup Lady Tigers (14-11) are the number four seed from Region 5-AAAA after dropping two close games in the region tournament.

Troup led by more than 20 points against Sandy Creek before falling 44-40, and it lost to Chapel Hill in overtime in the third-place game.

Still, it has been a successful season for the Lady Tigers, who have put together their first winning season since 2012 when they won a region title and made it to the state quarterfinals.

Among Troup’s top players this season are Kwyneshia Spence, Shaqoya Gilbert, Akhya Mitchell, Jedda Madden and Amber Gilbert, and they’ll try to help the team win its first game at state in five years.

Standing in Troup’s way is a West Hall team having a strong season.

West Hall (22-5) breezed to the Region 7-AAAA championship without losing a game in the regular season or the tournament.

Overall, West Hall has won 11 of its past 12 games.

On Saturday, the Troup Tigers and LaGrange Grangers will look to keep their seasons alive.

Troup (10-17) has a losing record, but it heads to state with a measure of confidence after going toe-to-toe with two top-10 teams in the Region 5-AAAA tournament.

In the semifinals, Troup was within three late before losing 56-46.

A day later, Troup was tied with Cartersville in the game’s closing moments before falling 59-53.

Troup’s Jarrious Jefferson, a first-team all-region player, is averaging more than 20 points per game, and Montez Crowe has also been a consistent scorer.

Blessed Trinity (20-6) beat Marist 56-42 to win the Region 7-AAAA championship.

LaGrange (24-3) heads into the state tournament riding high.

The Grangers beat the Sandy Creek Patriots 65-58 in overtime to win the Region 5-AAAA championship, and they’ve won 13 of their previous 14 games.

Senior guard LaPerion Perry, a first-team all-region player, has had a stellar season, and he scored 21 points in the region-championship win over Sandy Creek.

Bo Russell, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer in overtime against Sandy Creek, is also an all-region player, as are senior post players Bryan Fanning and Kenan Gray.

West Hall (8-18) is the fourth-place finisher from Region 7-AAAA.