LaGrange, Troup ready to tangle
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s time to make some history.
When the girls’ basketball teams from LaGrange and Troup tip things off at 6 p.m. on Friday, it’ll be a ground-breaking moment.
For decades, Troup High has played its home games in the same facility, and the gym has served the school well.
Troup’s basketball teams now have a new home, though, and the first-ever varsity games will be played there on Friday.
Troup High’s shiny new gym, with approximately double the capacity of the old facility, will be rockin’ when the teams from LaGrange and Troup renew their rivalry.
First up will be the girls’ game at 6 p.m., with the boys’ game to follow.
There will no doubt be plenty of emotion surrounding the occasion, and with that in mind Troup girls’ coach Carla Thornton said her message to the players is to “just stay focused.”
“There’s going to be a lot of faces in here, a lot of voices in here, but you’ve got listen to yourselves, listen to your teammates,” Thornton added. “I know you’re going to be excited, but at the end of the day it’s another game. Tone it down, and just play basketball. Don’t get caught up in all the extra stuff that goes along with this game.”
The Lady Tigers come into the game flying high.
With last weekend’s big road win over Sandy Creek followed by Tuesday’s victory over Manchester, Troup is 12-0 overall, and 2-0 in Region 5-AAAA.
Senior Amber Gilbert, who has been starting since was a freshman, leads the Lady Tigers in scoring at more than 16 points per game, and sophomore Aniya Palmer averages 12 points a game.
Alexcia Murphy, Monyia Murphy, Samarria Weldon, Jada Green and Darnesheyuna McCollough are also key players for Troup.
While it has been smooth sailing for Troup so far, Thornton is anticipating a big-time challenge from LaGrange.
LaGrange (7-9 overall) is 0-3 in Region 5-AAAA, but all three of those region games were competitive.
“You can’t take them lightly. And it’s a rivalry game, so anything can happen,” Thornton said. “I know they’re going to come and give us their best game of the season tomorrow.”
LaGrange has lost two of its region games by a combined five points, and it hung tough with Cedartown before losing by nine.
LaGrange should receive a lift with the return of senior guard Kamelah Kelley, who has missed all three region games with an injury. Two other seniors, forward Madison Coverson and Chaquave’ayr Robinson, will also provide some veteran leadership on Friday, as will juniors Carmen Lynch and Ayana Ramsey.
On the other end of the spectrum are some players getting their first taste of varsity basketball this season, including freshman guard Corriah Williams, who has been one of LaGrange’s top scorers.
“We’ve got our freshman guards, and they’re going to be wide-eyed over there,” LaGrange head coach Stephen Tuck said. “I’m going to be prepared to use all my timeouts early. But I’m excited for the girls, I’m excited for the community. That’s a chance to see a really good team. So we’re ready for it.”
Regardless of the outcome of Friday’s game, there’ll be a lot of basketball still to be played.
“You want to get hot at the same time, and get ready for the region tournament,” Tuck said. “Anything can happen then.”
As for Friday’s game, Tuck is looking forward to seeing how his players match up against an elite team.
“I’m excited for the team (Thornton) has and I’m excited for girls’ basketball,” Tuck said. “Everybody’s playing hard, and that’s all you can ask for.”