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Unbeaten Grangers survive Tigers

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

What a way to break in the new gym.

In a thrilling, back-and-forth game that wasn’t decided until the final moments, it was LaGrange outlasting Troup 58-54 before more than 2,000 riveted spectators in Troup High’s new gymnasium.

The outcome wasn’t determined until Kobe Jones made a free throw with less than a second left to give LaGrange an insurmountable four-point lead.

LaGrange improved to 17-0 and 4-0 in Region 5-AAAA, while Troup (6-7 overall) fell to 0-3 in the region.

Troup went on a 17-2 run in the third quarter to take a seven-point lead, but LaGrange kept its composure and found a way to escape with the victory in the first varsity boys’ game at Troup’s new gym.

“When they made their run, nobody cried,” said LaGrange senior guard DJ. Burks, who had a game-high 21 points. “We just got our heads in the game, played, and got back in it and played hard. Everybody played their hearts out tonight.”

Nafis Carston contributed 12 points for LaGrange, and Kobe Jones and Javon Brown added 11 points apiece.

For Troup, Qua Johnson made four 3-pointers and scored 14 points, Camren O’Neal and Gabe Cofield had seven points apiece, and Trey Williams made two 3-pointers and scored six points.

“The second half, they came out and hit threes and got hot, and we’re down,” said Mark Veal, LaGrange’s head coach. “We were fortunate. That game could have gone either way tonight. They played hard, they wanted it. We played hard. We wanted it. We hit some big shots, and had some guys step up and make some plays. We’re fortunate to be on top.”

The Tigers had their chances to make it a winning night, but it was the Grangers celebrating the road win.

“Hats off to LaGrange,” said Blake Craft, Troup’s head coach. “They played a great game, and they were ready. We didn’t have a great first half, but they guys stepped it up and brought the physicality to them. We made some plays, and it turned into a ballgame.

Trailing 6-2 early, the Grangers got hot and went on an 18-6 run to take a 20-12 lead when Burks hit a 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer.

The Tigers got within five points in the second quarter, but the Grangers were on top 30-22 at the halftime break.

The Tigers came to life in the third quarter.

Cofield hit a 3-pointer early in the second half, jump-starting a 17-2 run that gave Troup a 39-32 lead with 2:45 left in the third quarter.

Johnson helped spark the Troup run with three 3-pointers.

The Grangers answered with a 10-0 run of their own to take a 42-39 lead, with Burks knocking down a pair of 3-pointers.

Gabe Stepped pulled down an offensive rebound and scored as the third quarter ended to give Troup a 43-42 lead.

It remained tight in the fourth quarter.

Williams made a 3-pointer to pull the Tigers even with 6:05 to play, and the Grangers responded with a 7-2 run to go up 53-48 with 2:30 remaining.

The lead was five for LaGrange when Williams made a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game with 12 seconds left.

With 11 seconds remaining, Earley Sanders made one free throw to push LaGrange’s lead to three, and Troup was called for a turnover with four seconds left.

Following a missed free throw, the players scrambled for the ball on the floor, and a jump ball was called.

Possession went to LaGrange, and Jones was fouled with less than a second to play.

After Jones missed the first three throw, he made the second one to extend the lead to four, and Troup was unable to get a final shot away.

LaGrange will play Sandy Creek on Saturday at 12:30 p.m., and that’ll be another big-time challenge against one of the state’s elite teams.

“We’ve got to do the quick turnaround, which isn’t ideal,” Veal said. “Tomorrow will be the best team we’ve faced all year. Sandy Creek’s good.”

Troup was supposed to host Cedartown on Saturday, but the game has been postponed because of weather concerns.