Thrilling win for Lady Tigers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
There was no panic.
With six seconds left in Thursday’s state-tournament showdown, Cross Creek had a one-point lead over the visiting Troup Lady Tigers.
After a Cross Creek player made one free throw, Troup head coach Carla Thornton called a timeout and let her players know exactly how she thought things were going to go.
“I told Aniya (Palmer), you’re about to get this rebound,” Thornton said. “We’re going to get the rebound, and we’ve got time to get a layup and win the game, and that’s exactly how it played out.”
Indeed it did.
Palmer soared into the air to snatch the rebound following the missed free throw, and she landed and took off down the court.
It looked like Palmer was going to drive straight to the basket, but instead she dished a perfect pass to freshman Alexcia Murphy, who scored at the buzzer to give Troup a dramatic 46-45 victory to advance to the quarterfinals of the Class AAAA state tournament.
In a game where plenty went wrong, the Lady Tigers found a way to survive and advance and keep their state-championship hopes alive.
“Even in those last six seconds, I told them what was going to happen in that timeout, and what we were going to do,” Thornton said. “They didn’t panic, and they made it happen, and we got out of there with a win.”
Troup was trailing 44-41 late in the game when Amber Gilbert knocked down a 3-pointer to pull her team even.
With six seconds left Troup was called for a foul, giving Cross Creek the chance to reclaim the lead at the free-throw line.
Cross Creek did go up by one with a free throw, but moments later Troup broke the heart of the home team.
“When we were in the huddle, (Thornton) said Aniya you get the rebound, and just go from there,” Palmer said. “I didn’t think the ball was going to come to me. When I caught the ball, I was like, just go, and I went down the court. I saw (Alexcia) open, and I passed the ball, and we won the game.”
Murphy felt Palmer was going to take the shot herself, but she was obviously ready for the ball to come her way.
“I was thinking that Aniya was going to go all the way to the goal,” Murphy said. “When she passed it, in my head, I knew I had to score. I was at the goal, so I knew I had to make it, I had to make that shot.”
Murphy did make the shot, and the celebration was on.
“For myself, I didn’t play good at all,” Palmer said. “I know a few of my other teammates we didn’t play good either. But at the end, we all came together and did what we’re supposed to do. I’m proud that we all stuck together, and we worked hard.”
Gilbert led Troup with 18 points, and she made five 3-pointers, including two critical ones in the fourth quarter.
Murphy added 11 points, Samarria Weldon scored nine points, and Palmer contributed eight points.
The game was close throughout.
Cross Creek had an 11-8 lead after the first quarter, and Troup led 18-16 at the half.
Cross Creek went on an 8-2 run to start the second half to go up 24-20, but Troup regrouped to take a 30-29 lead through three quarters.
It remained tight in the fourth quarter, setting up the thrilling finish.
Thornton was grateful for the Troup fans who made the trip, and she felt their support helped push her team over the top.
“Them cheering for us, hollering defense, it gave us some extra motivation,” Thornton said. “They got a little winded at the end, and we had to play with heart, and they helped us with that. Hearing them cheering for us gave us some extra energy you thought you really didn’t have.”
OF NOTE: For more on Thursday’s big win, check out Saturday’s sports section.