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Tigers gear up for region schedule

By Kevin Eckleberry

kevin.eckleberry@lagrangenews.com

There was no miracle finish for the Troup Tigers.

With less than two seconds remaining in Saturday’s game against Riverdale, Troup found itself trailing by a point.

The Tigers had to go the length of the court, and when the inbounds pass was stolen, their fate was sealed.

Riverdale’s Joshua Smith made one free throw with half a second left, and Troup was unable to get a final shot off.

Riverdale held on for a 58-56 victory to finish third in the Carrollton holiday tournament.

Troup won its tournament opener against M.L. King before dropping its next two games.

Troup was coming off a hard-fought loss to Carrollton on Friday night, and it returned to the court a little more than 12 hours later to play for third place.

Troup beat M.L. King in its tournament opener.

“We had a very emotional night last night, trying to come back against Carrollton, and then today you’re playing early after playing late every day, and it’s getting that right mindset,” Troup head coach Blake Craft said after Saturday’s game. “We didn’t handle that very well. We talk about not succumbing to adversity, and I felt today we kind of gave in to adversity.”

The Tigers started quickly and had a 9-3 lead minutes into the game, but the Raiders hung tough and pulled off the close win before a sparse crowd in Carrollton’s gym.

“I thought we had a really good start to the game,” Craft said. “We’ve just got to sustain that a little bit more. They were let down themselves, because they know they let one get away. There were some things we work on in practice, and it didn’t translate very well.”

King Mwikuta led the Tigers with 15 points, and Jarrious Jefferson added 14 points, with nine of those points coming in the fourth quarter.

Montez Crowe and Tristen Ware each had 10 points.

Troup (5-5) will open its Region 5-AAAA schedule on Jan. 2 against Chapel Hill, and while it has been an up and down season so far, Craft likes his team’s prospects.

Most of Troup’s top players were late arrivals from the football team, and they figure to continue to improve as the season rolls along.

“The future is bright. We’ve just got to keep chopping wood,” Craft said. “And it’s coming. We’re ahead of where I thought we’d be at this point. We’ve got our legs under us, now we’ve got to start finishing.”

With Jefferson scoring five early points, the Tigers surged to a six-point lead on Saturday, and they led 14-10 after the opening quarter.

Kobe Hudson knocked down a 3-pointer early in the second quarter to give Troup a 19-10 cushion, and the lead was still nine with less than three minutes to play in the half.

The Raiders closed the first half on a 7-0 run, though, to cut the Tigers’ lead to 25-23 at the break.

The Tigers led by as many as six points in the third quarter, but they found themselves trailing 36-35 heading to the final period.

Still trailing by one, Troup went on a 6-0 run that was capped by a Crowe basket to put Riverdale in a 53-48 hole with 1:40 to play.

After the Raiders got within two, Mwikuta made two free throws with 1:06 left, and the lead was 55-51 with 1:06 to play.

The Raiders answered with a 5-0 run to take the lead, and Jefferson made a free throw with 11 seconds left to tie it.

A free throw with two seconds left gave the Raiders the lead, and the Tigers were unable to answer.

FRIDAY’S GAME: An inspired second half wasn’t enough to lift Troup to a victory over Carrollton.

Troup, after falling behind by 17 points at the half, outscored Carrollton by nine points in the second half on the way to a 62-54 setback.

“The first half, we got punched, and we didn’t react very well,” Craft said. “It was good for us to face that test. I never like to lose, but the second half was something to build on.”

Jefferson continued his stellar play and scored 28 points.

“He took it to the next level,” Craft said. “He put the team on his back and helped carry us.”

Parks added nine points, and Mwikuta added seven points.

In the opening half, Troup was having a difficult time finding the basket, and it trailed 34-17 at the break.

The second half was a different story, with Troup outscoring Carrollton 37-28 while getting as close as seven points.

“We picked our intensity up,” Craft said. “That was a great second half.”