Strong finish not enough for Tigers

Published 4:30 pm Sunday, January 21, 2018

By Kevin Eckleberry

An inspired closing stretch wasn’t enough to lift the Troup Tigers past the Sandy Creek Patriots on Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers caught fire in the fourth quarter and scored 31 points, but the deficit was too great as the Patriots held on for a 67-53 victory in a Region 5-AAAA game.

The Patriots improved to 4-2 in the region and are a half-game behind the LaGrange Grangers for second place, while the Tigers fell to 3-3.

Troup hadn’t played in more than a week, and like every other team, it’s practice schedule was interrupted by the winter storm.

The Tigers had won back-to-back region games before meeting their match in the Patriots.

“We were on an uptick, and then we took these four days off like everybody else did, and that took us back a notch,” Troup head coach Blake Craft said. “But that’s part of it, dealing with adversity.”

For most of Saturday’s games, the Tigers couldn’t make anything.

They were limited to 22 points through the first three periods, and they managed just five points in the third quarter to fall behind by 21 points.

Once the shots started falling in the fourth quarter, though, the Tigers seemingly couldn’t miss.

Ja’Rell Smith and Gabriel Cofield came off the bench and sparked the late rally, combining for six 3-pointers and 20 points in the fourth quarter.

Jarrious Jefferson, who led the Tigers with 13 points, added seven points in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, the Patriots also had a productive fourth quarter with 25 points, so they managed to maintain a comfortable lead.

The Tigers got within 14 points with 1:33 remaining on a Smith 3-pointer, but that’s as close as they came.

Smith made four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and finished with 12 points, and Cofield added eight points, all in the final period.

“I thought the effort out of the guys (in the fourth quarter), that was very fun to watch,” Craft said.

Troup faces another tough challenge today with region-leading Cartersville coming for a visit on Monday.

Cartersville leads the region with a 7-0 record.