It’s game day for Troup
Published 11:34 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Here we go again.
In November, the Troup football team traveled to Atlanta to take on St. Pius X in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
In an entertaining, back-and-forth game, it was St. Pius holding off Troup 43-35, and it went on to win another playoff game before falling to Marist in the semifinals.
Flash forward a few months, and teams from those two schools are ready to tangle once again, this time on the basketball court.
As was the case in November, the game will be played on the St. Pius campus, with tip-off set for 7 p.m.
The winner will advance to the quarterfinals to play either Carver-Columbus or Woodward Academy.
Troup (15-11), the number three seed from Region 5-AAAA, kept its season alive with a dramatic 56-54 overtime win over Northwest Whitfield in the opening round of the state tournament.
St. Pius (25-3), the champion of Region 8-AAAA, overwhelmed White County 76-34 to advance.
“If I wasn’t playing against them, I’d enjoyed watching them. I love the way they play basketball,” said Troup head coach Blake Craft, who was at Saturday’s game against White County. “They play full-court, they play hard the whole time, they play 11, 12 people. They play unselfish, and they play a fun style of basketball.”
For Troup, winning a state game was a big step for a program that has struggled in recent years.
Troup had already assured itself of the program’s first winning record in seven years before it headed to Tunnel Hill for the first-round showdown.
Had the Tigers lost that game, it still would have been a successful season for a program playing under a first-year head coach.
Troup wasn’t content to make the three-hour drive to the northern part of the state just to lose, though.
After losing an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, Troup scored eight of its 10 points in overtime from the free-throw line on the way to the two-point win. Now, it’s another big-time challenge for the Tigers as they prepare to tangle with one of Class AAAA’s best teams.
At Troup’s final practice on Wednesday, Craft made sure to let his players know it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
“That’s what we told the kids. We told them, listen, nobody outside our gym is expecting us to win,” Craft said. “Let’s embrace it, and have fun with it, and see if we can’t take the next step and shock somebody.”
Craft added that “listen, they might beat us nine out of 10 times, but all we’ve got to do is beat them one time.”
Troup is led by senior guard Jarrious Jefferson, who was named the Region 5-AAAA player of the year.
Against Northwest, while Jefferson was limited to 13 points, Craft said he did an outstanding job of running the offense.
Post player King Mwikuta led the way with 16 points, and seniors Tristen Ware and Montez Crowe added 11 and six points, respectively.
While the Tigers can score, Craft doesn’t want to see a shootout.
“We think we’ve got a good game plan,” Craft said. “If we can keep it in the 55, 60-point range, we’ve got a chance. If it gets in the upper 70s, that’s in their favor.”