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Troup’s rally falls short against Gainesville

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

CARROLLTON – They tried to shoot their way back into it.

Trailing by 11 points late in Thursday’s tournament game against Gainesville, the Troup Tigers connected for three 3-pointers in the final minute to get within five before time ran out on them.

Gainesville, which lost in the Class AAAAAA state-championship game last season, outlasted Troup 62-55 in the opening game of the Carrollton Christmas Tournament.

“This makes you better,” Troup head coach Blake Craft said of facing a team of Gainesville’s caliber. “This is (the kind of team) you’ll see in the elite eight.

Gainesville had an 11-point lead when Gabe Cofield knocked down a 3-pointer with 52 seconds remaining to make it a 57-49 game.

With 25 seconds left, Qua Johnson’s 3-pointer trimmed Gainesville’s lead to 59-52.

On Troup’s next possession, it was Ja’Rell Smith finding the range on a 3-pointer, and Gainesville’s lead was 60-55 with 13 seconds left.

Gainesville’s Brent Kelly made a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left, and Troup missed a pair of shots on its final possession and the clock hit zero.

Brandon Smith, who made two of Troup’s 10 3-pointers, led his team with 10 points.

Ja’Rell Smith added nine points on three 3-pointers, and JaQuavo McFarland and Joko Willis had seven points apiece.

Ten Troup players appeared in the game, and every one of them scored.

Rafael Rubel and Maurice Hector, who helped lead Gainesville to the brink of a state title last season, had 17 points apiece, and they combined for seven 3-pointers.

It was a 15-15 game after the first quarter, and it remained tight in the second quarter, with Gainesville taking a 32-31 lead at the break on a late 3-pointer by Rafael Rubel.

Gainesville went up by seven in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Rubel, but Troup fought back to cut its deficit to 43-40 heading to the final quarter.

Gainesville started to create some separation in the fourth quarter, and when Hector made a 3-pointer, Troup trailed 54-44 with five minutes to play.

Rubel’s two free throws with 1:08 left gave Gainesville an 11-point lead, and Troup made things interesting with its flurry of 3-pointers in the final minute.

While the Tigers’ hopes of winning the title are over, they still have two more tournament games to play.

Troup will play again today at 8:30 p.m. at the University of West Georgia against either Oxford or Marietta, and it will play a final tournament game on Saturday.

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