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Lady Tigers ready for next challenge

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

The journey continues.

After an impressive victory over Chestatee in the opening round of the Class AAAA state tournament, the Troup Lady Tigers will travel to Augusta on Thursday as they look to keep their season alive.

Troup’s opponent is Cross Creek, and the winner will advance to play either Northwest Whitfield or McDonough in the quarterfinals next week.

It has been a spectacular season for Troup, which bounced back from a loss to Sandy Creek in the Region 5-AAAA championship to beat Chestatee 63-37 and improve to 24-1.

While the future appears bright with most of the players in the early stages of their high-school careers, head coach Carla Thornton’s message is to embrace the moment, because who knows what will happen next season.

“It’s not guaranteed (that we’ll be back here),” Thornton said. “There are so many teams I’ve had that were good, but things happen, whether you lose a girl to an injury or something happens. Those things happen that are out of your control.”

Troup earned its place in the round of 16 with a dominant performance against Chestatee.

It was tied 19-19 after the first quarter, but the rest of the game belonged to the Lady Tigers.

After four consecutive losses in the first round of the state tournament, it was a relief for Troup to finally get past that point.

A year ago Troup was at home in the first round of the state tournament, and it lost to Oconee County 41-28.

“It feels like a weight is off your shoulders,” Thornton said. “You’re happy for the girls, because they put in the work. I’m glad they got past that point, and shook off last year.”

Now, Troup’s task is to find a way to dispatch a Cross Creek team that is riding high.

With last week’s 44-38 win over Hardaway in the first round, Cross Creek (19-6) has won eight consecutive games.

A lot of what Cross Creek does offensively revolves around junior Jordyn Dorsey, who averages close to 18 points a game.

Dorsey, a 5-foot-9 guard, will no doubt have the attention of Troup.

“She can handle the ball, she can pass, she can score,” Thornton said. “You have to make sure she’s accounted for at all times on the court, because she makes her teammates better.”

Standing in Dorsey’s way is a Troup defense that has been stingy all season, holding opponents to fewer than 40 points per game.

“We respect her and her skill set, but at the same time I have pride in my girls’ defense,” Thornton said. “We’re going to throw her some different looks, and I think my girls are looking forward to the challenge.”

While the Lady Tigers have been getting the job done defensively, they haven’t had any trouble putting points on the scoreboard either.

Senior standout Amber Gilbert averages more than 15 points per game to lead Troup, and sophomore Aniya Palmer averages close to 13 points a game.

Both those players also average nearly 10 rebounds per game.

Freshman Alexcia Murphy averages about 10 points per game while providing some toughness inside, and Sammaria Weldon, Monyia Murphy, Jada Green, and Darnesheyuna McCollough are also capable scorers.

In the Chestatee game, Palmer led Troup with 15 points, and McCollough added 10 points.

Gilbert and Alexcia Murphy had nine and eight points, respectively, and Monyia Murphy scored five points.

There are four seniors on the team, including Gilbert, a four-year starter and an all-region player on multiple occasions.

The other three seniors are Myeshia Sims, Shanise Turner and Tashauna Askew, and while their playing time is limited, Thornton appreciates everything they do.

“Tashauna, she can play guard or post, and there are some games where she’ll play a lot, and some where she won’t play at all,” Thornton said. “She has team spirit, regardless of her role. Shanise, she played for me two years and went to LaGrange and came back. She has great energy. She doesn’t say much, but she enjoys being around the team.”

Thornton added that “I want them to get a chance to shine, and they’ve had their time where all of them scored, and there was a big celebration.”

Thornton’s hope is that everyone who plays on Thursday will be at her best, something that she said hasn’t happened very often this season.

“If everybody on our team shows up to play on the same night, we can be unstoppable,” Thornton said. “We’ll have two people carry us one game, and two people carry us the next game. We play well together, but we still haven’t had everybody show up on the same night.”

TROUP VS. 

CROSS CREEK

WHAT: Second round of Class AAAA state tournament.

WHEN: Thursday, 5 p.m.

WHERE: Cross Creek (Augusta)

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Troup (24-1) finished second in Region 5-AAAA and beat Chestatee 63-37 in the first round of the state tournament; Cross Creek (19-6) finished first in Region 3-AAAA and beat Hardaway 44-38 in the first round of the state tournament

UP NEXT: The winner will play either Northwest Whitfield or McDonough in the quarterfinals