Lady Tigers get title shot
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
TYRONE – It’s been nearly 10 years since the Troup Lady Tigers hosted a state-tournament game.
That’s about to change.
With junior Amber Gilbert delivering an overpowering performance, Troup overcame a slow start to beat Cedartown 45-39 in the semifinals of the Region 5-AAAA tournament at Sandy Creek.
Troup advances to the region-championship game on Saturday to play either Sandy Creek or Central-Carroll.
Regardless of the outcome of that game, Troup will be at home for the first round of the state tournament next week.
Troup is in this position thanks in large part to the effort of Gilbert, who scored 18 of her team-leading 24 points in the second half.
Gilbert was 12-of-14 from the free-throw line, with all of those attempts coming in the second half.
Sophomore point guard Jada Green added seven points, and that she was even on the court was an impressive feat.
Green injured her knee in a win over Central-Carroll on Feb. 1, and she didn’t practice at all last week.
Gilbert has also been banged up and has been nursing sore knees, and didn’t practice last week, either.
When the bell rang, though, Gilbert and Green were ready to go, and they helped power the team to a huge win.
“That meant a lot to me for those two to suck it up and play for their teammates,” Troup head coach Carla Thornton said.
Troup couldn’t get anything going early, with Cedartown surging to an 8-2 lead after the first quarter.
Troup came to life in the second quarter, outscoring Troup 17-10 to build a 19-18 lead at the halftime break.
With Gilbert scoring eight points in the third quarter, Troup pushed its lead to 33-26 heading to the final quarter.
When Green beat the Cedartown defense down the court for a layup, Troup’s lead was 41-29 with a little more than two minutes to play.
Cedartown didn’t go away.
The Lady Bulldogs went on a 10-0 run, cutting the Lady Tigers’ lead to 41-39 with 1:07 to play.
Gilbert wasn’t going to let her team lose, though.
Gilbert rebounded her own miss and scored with 48 seconds left, and Troup led 43-39.
Gilbert was fouled after pulling down a defensive rebound on the other end, and she knocked down two free throws to extend the lead to six with 21 seconds left.
Cedartown missed with seven seconds left, and Aniya Palmer came down with the rebound, and she ran out the clock.
While happy to see her team prevail, Thornton said the level of play will need to increase moving forward.
“Like I told the girls, you’ve got to play better,” Thornton said. “We played better in the regular season. You have to elevate your level of play this time of year, especially if you want to make some noise. I felt like today we showed your youth at times.”
“But,” she added. “I couldn’t be more proud of the girls. We battled through some injuries, and fought to the end.”
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