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State time for Tigers

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

The Troup Tigers weren’t a one-man show during the 2017-2018 season, but they were heavily reliant on senior guard Jarrious Jefferson.

Jefferson was Troup’s leading scorer in nearly every game, and he was named the Region 5-AAAA player of the year after helping the team reach the second round of the state tournament.

As the Tigers prepared for a new season, head coach Blake Craft knew it was going to be a different team.

His hope was that if one player had an off night offensively, someone else would pick up the slack.

That spreading-the-wealth philosophy has worked out well for the Tigers, who have enjoyed a superb season.

With Saturday’s victory over Cedartown in the third-place game of the Region 5-AAAA tournament, Troup improved to 17-9 while winning for the fifth time in six games.

Next up for Troup will be Stephens County in the opening round of the Class AAAA state tournament.

The game will be played today at Stephens County, with tip-off set for 7 p.m.

Troup’s leading scorer this season is senior JaQuavo McFarland, and he has been terrific.

When McFarland has had a slow scoring night, though, the Tigers have still been able to put points on the board.

“It doesn’t matter who the leading scorer is,” McFarland said. “I don’t even have to touch the ball. Winning’s all that matters.”

In the 72-46 win over Cedartown that gave Troup the region’s number three seed, that scoring balance was on display.

No one scored more than 13 points, but 13 different Troup players had at least two points.

McFarland was the leading scorer with 13 points, and fellow senior Brandon Smith was the only other Troup player in double figures with 11 points.

Andy Boykin and Isaiah Cox each had eight points, and Kobe Hudson, Trey Williams, Gabe Cofield, Jamari Tharsh, Ja’Rell Smith, Joko Willis, Tre Scott and Ricco Person all scored.

During a 27-point second quarter, nine Troup players scored.

McFarland has had stretches where he’s been nearly unstoppable offensively, but he hasn’t had to carry the entire offensive burden on his shoulders.

“We’ve talked about not pressing,” Craft said earlier this season. “With this team, you don’t have to score that much. If somebody is denying you, let somebody else do it. We don’t need you to score. If they leave you open, stroke it. If they don’t, let somebody else do it. And he’s buying into it, and that’s why good things are going to happen for him.”

After a big win over Cartersville that gave Troup the number two seed for the region tournament, Craft made note of how enthusiastic the players on the bench were while watching their teammates perform.

“The bench was excited,” Craft said. “The ones that aren’t playing, they’re cheering. When a three goes up, their arms are up. They’re celebrating with their teammates.”

Another key to Troup’s success has been a suffocating defense.

The Tigers were, in fact, are the best defensive team in the region while allowing 53 points per game.

Sandy Creek, which won the region title and is 24-3, allows 57 points a game.

Troup hasn’t given up more than 53 points in any of its past five games.

Even in a loss to Cartersville in the region tournament, Troup only allowed 53 points.

Troup’s first-round opponent will be a Stephens County team that finished second in the Region 8-AAAA tournament after losing to St. Pius X in the championship game.

TROUP VS. STEPHENS COUNTY

WHAT: First round of Class AAAA state tournament

WHEN: Today, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Stephens County

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Troup (17-9) finished third in the Region 5-AAAA tournament; Stephens County (16-10) finished second in the Region 8-AAAA tournament

UP NEXT: The winner will play either Ridgeland or Denmark in the second round