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Senior shines for Tigers

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

He was ready for the challenge.

During his first three years as a high-school player, Troup’s Jaquavo McFarland was primarily a role player, and he saw limited playing time on the varsity squad last season.

As second-year head coach Blake Craft laid the groundwork for the 2018-2019 basketball season, though, he knew how important McFarland was going to be to the team.

Craft believed McFarland had the talent to be a big-time high-school player, and he was also counting on him to be a senior leader on a team.

McFarland has met his coach’s expectations.

McFarland, along with fellow senior Brandon Smith, helped Troup make it through a challenging non-region schedule with an 8-4 record.

Troup will open Region 5-AAAA play this weekend with a game at Chapel Hill today and a home test against Sandy Creek on Saturday.

“I knew I had a big role, me and Brandon,” McFarland said after Thursday’s two-hour practice session. “I sat down with coach, and he told us to stay within ourselves and make sure we play our role and play team ball.”

McFarland showed he was ready for the spotlight when he scored 19 points in a season-opening loss to Opelika. In Troup’s second game, a 53-50 win over McIntosh, McFarland again led the Tigers in scoring with 15 points.

McFarland kept it going in the next game as he made three 3-pointers while scoring 16 points in a 57-49 win over Greenville.

In Troup’s next two games, victories over McIntosh and Valley, McFarland scored 17 and 19 points, respectively.

McFarland’s scoring pace dropped off a bit after the quick start, although he did score 15 points in Troup’s most recent game, a 63-53 victory over Callaway.

When McFarland hasn’t been filling up the box score, the Tigers have still found ways to succeed offensively because of their depth.

In a game against Gainesville in a holiday tournament in Carrollton, 10 Troup players appeared in the game, and each of them scored.

“Knowing we’ve got other scorers on the team, it lifts a weight off my shoulders,” McFarland said. “I don’t have to shoot. I can pass the ball along to the next person knowing they’re going to make it.”

Whether he’s scoring, assisting, getting rebounds or playing lock-down defense, McFarland is just happy to be contributing.

“It took a little bit of time, and I stayed with it and waited for my time to come, and I’m taking advantage of it,” McFarland said.