Troup holds off Cartersville

Published 11:44 pm Monday, January 22, 2018

By Kevin Eckleberry

They weren’t going to let this one get away.

Earlier this month, the Troup Tigers had a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter against LaGrange before losing a 64-63 heart-breaker.

On Monday, Troup once again had a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, this time against the Region 5-AAAA-leading Cartersville Purple Hurricanes.

Cartersville cut what was a 13-point deficit down to one, but a poised Troup team made the plays it needed to down the stretch to secure a big 65-62 victory.

As disheartening as the LaGrange loss was, Troup head coach Blake Craft encouraged his players to use it as a learning tool.

“I told them this loss will help us down the road, and it did tonight,” Craft said.

Senior post player

Tristen Ware said he and his teammates were committed to giving a complete effort for four quarters.

“We knew that this was a big game,” Ware said. “We had to pick up the intensity from the get-go.”

Twice in the fourth quarter the Purple Hurricanes got within one, but they could never completely close the gap.

Troup clinched the victory when senior guard Jarrious Jefferson, who had a monster night with 30 points, made a pair of free throws with six seconds left to push the lead to five, and Cartersville made a meaningless basket as time expired.

Troup (9-8 overall) improved to 4-3 in the region, while Cartersville (14-3) fell to 7-1.

Jefferson made six 3-pointers and was 6-of-7 from the free-throw line on the way to his 30-point outburst, and Ware, Lenntavis Harper and King Mwikuta added eight points apiece.

Harper made two of Troup’s eight 3-pointers, and Ja’Rell Smith also made one from long distance.

The Tigers led by 11 through three periods, and they went up by 13 moments into the fourth quarter on a basket by Andy Boykin.

Troup’s lead was 12 with six minutes to play when Cartersville made its run.

With Jaylon Pugh hitting a pair of 3-pointers, Cartersville went on a 12-1 run, trimming Troup’s lead to 57-56 with 2:15 to play.

After the Tigers went up by three on free throws by Mwikuta and Jefferson, Luke Schiltz pulled down and offensive rebound and scored, and the Purple Hurricanes were back within one with 53 seconds left.

With 33 seconds left, Troup’s Montez Crowe was fouled, and he stepped to the line and drained two free throws to make it a 61-58 game.

After Cartersville missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer, Troup got the rebound, and Jefferson made two free throws with 11 seconds remaining to give his team a 63-58 lead.

Cartersville scored quickly to get back within three, and Jefferson was fouled with six seconds showing on the clock.

With an opportunity to put the game on ice, Jefferson’s two free-throw attempts found nothing but net, and Troup had an insurmountable five-point lead.

Craft said the leadership of the seniors, including Crowe, was critical in the fourth quarter.

“Down the stretch, you hear Tez talking about this is it, here’s the run, but we’ve got this,” Craft said. “You’ve got to have seniors that do that. A coach can only do so much. It’s got to come from the players.”

Troup started quickly, taking a 16-12 lead after the first quarter, and Jefferson did a lot of the damage with 10 points.

In the second quarter, Jefferson made two 3-pointers, and Harper and Smith made one apiece to help Troup take a 35-27 lead at the break.

Troup struggled offensive in Saturday’s game against Sandy Creek, but it was a different story two days later.

“It boosted our confidence, gave us momentum,” Ware said of the early offensive success.

The halftime break didn’t slow down the Tigers.

Jefferson hit a 3-pointer early in the second half to give the Tigers a 40-27 lead, and they were ahead 52-41 through three quarters.

Once again it was Jefferson leading the way in the third quarter with eight points, and Harper scored five consecutive points during one stretch to give the Tigers their biggest lead of the game at 14 points.

The fourth quarter was a struggle at times, with the Tigers making just one field goal, but they made 11 critical free throws in the final eight minutes, with Mwikuta and Jefferson each making four.

The schedule doesn’t let up for Troup, which will host LaGrange on Friday.

LaGrange, which visits Cartersville today, is in second place in the region with a 5-2 record.

Troup then closes its region schedule with road games against Cedartown, Central-Carroll, Cartersville and Chapel Hill.