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Special season for Lady Tigers

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

The future is bright for the Troup Lady Tigers.

It’s a team with no seniors, and the majority of the most impactful players are freshmen or sophomores.

Just because the Lady Tigers figure to be a force for the next few seasons doesn’t mean they’re looking to the future, though.

This is a team that is poised to win right now.

A red-hot Troup team will be at home for the first round of the Class AAAA state tournament.

Troup (17-8) will host Oconee County, the third-place team from Region 8-AAAA, today at 6 p.m.

Troup nearly headed into the state tournament as a region champion, but it lost a 50-47 heart-breaker to Sandy Creek in the Region 5-AAAA title game.

Troup had a six-point lead in the final minutes, but a veteran Sandy Creek team rallied to its third consecutive region title.

After the game, Troup head coach Carla Thornton said her message to the players was to “not hang your head. You can play with anybody.”

The Lady Tigers will get a chance to prove that with the 32-team state tournament getting underway.

“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.”

Troup’s leading scorer, and the player with the most varsity experience, is junior Amber Gilbert.

Gilbert has come up big game after game for Troup, and she led the way with 18 points against Sandy Creek.

Gilbert had a season-best 29 points against Newnan, and she has had 10 games where she scored 20 points or more.

The other four members of the starting lineup against Sandy Creek were either freshmen or sophomores.

Freshman Aniya Palmer, who averages more than 13 points per game, has had a phenomenal debut season.

During a four-game winning streak to close the regular season, Palmer didn’t score fewer than 15 points in a game, and she had 20 points against LaGrange.

Following that win over LaGrange, Thornton said Palmer’s teammates have helped her get better.

“I think it’s good that those girls have allowed her to develop,” Thornton said. “They’re pushing her to be better.”

Two other freshmen, Monyia Murphy and Samarria Weldon, also started against Sandy Creek.

Murphy’s crowning moment came in the regular-season finale against Cartersville when she made the game-winning shot in the final seconds.

Sophomore Jada Green has been terrific at point guard, and sophomore Darnesheyuna McCollough has also played well.

One of the key players off the bench has been junior Tashauna Askew, who filled in capably while Green was out with a knee injury late in the season.

Today’s opponent is an Oconee County team that earned its state spot by finishing third in the Region 8-AAAA tournament.

Oconee County (16-12) has played well down the stretch, winning three of its past four games.

TROUP VS. OCONEE

WHAT: First round of Class AAAA state tournament

WHEN: Today, 6 p.m.

WHERE: Troup

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Troup (17-8) finished second in the Region 5-AAAA tournament; Oconee County (16-12) finished third in the Region 8-AAAA tournament

UP NEXT: The winner will play either Chestatee or Heritage-Catoosa in the second round.