Lady Tigers fight hard in loss
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
TYRONE – They had ‘em on the ropes.
With a little more than three minutes remaining in Saturday’s Region 5-AAAA-championship game, the Troup Lady Tigers had a six-point lead on a Sandy Creek team that hadn’t lost a region game all season.
Unfortunately for the Lady Tigers, they were unable to make it to the finish line with the lead.
Sandy Creek went on a 9-0 run to surge ahead, and it held on for a 50-47 victory to win a third consecutive region title.
Troup (17-8) will host Oconee County, the number three seed from Region 8-AAAA, on Friday at 6 p.m. in the opening round of the state tournament.
Even though the Lady Tigers fell short on Saturday, it was nonetheless an inspired effort for an inexperienced team that doesn’t have any seniors.
“I can’t be mad,” Troup head coach Carla Thornton said. “I said look at y’all, we’ve got five freshmen and three sophomores, and that’s the number seven team in the state. You can’t hang your head. You can play with anybody.”
When Amber Gilbert made four straight free throws (including two free throws awarded because of a technical foul), Troup led 44-38 with 3:32 left in the game.
Troup didn’t score again until Aniya Palmer made two free throws with 31 seconds, cutting Sandy Creek’s lead to 47-46.
The deficit was three when Palmer made a free throw with 22 seconds left, cutting Sandy Creek’s lead to 49-47.
After the Lady Patriots made one free throw with 15 seconds showing on the clock, the Lady Tigers had an opportunity to tie it with a 3-pointer, but they were unable to make it happen.
“The played all the way to the final buzzer,” Thornton said. “I thanked them for that, for their effort.”
Gilbert led Troup with 18 points, while Palmer added 17 points.
Troup, normally a proficient free-throw shooting team, struggled from the line against Sandy Creek, making 14-of-31 attempts.
Cartersville was 21-of-38 from the free-throw line.
By finishing second, Troup did secure the program’s first state-tournament home game in nearly 10 years.
“We’ve got a lot to play for Friday,” Thornton said. “It’s the 32 best teams in the state. I told them I think you made a statement. People know who you are as a team.”