Freshman shines for Troup
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
In the biggest game of the season, with a trip to the state semifinals on the line, it was a freshman who stepped to the forefront for the Troup Lady Tigers.
Alexcia Murphy, who has had a big debut season for Troup, came through with a 25-point effort to lead her team to a 58-48 road win over McDonough on Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAA state tournament.
Murphy started off strong with nine points in the first quarter, and she also had eight points in the third quarter when Troup outscored McDonough by 13 points to take a 42-32 lead.
Murphy added five more critical points in the fourth quarter as Troup held off a McDonough challenge to punch its ticket to the final four.
Murphy did most of her damage inside, with McDonough’s defenders unable to contain her.
Recognizing the mismatch, Murphy’s teammates did an exceptional job of feeding her the ball.
“If I’m open, they know how aggressive I am,” Murphy said. “If they see me open, they know to get it to me. It’s the same way with Amber (Gilbert) and Aniya (Palmer). We’ll get them the ball if they’re open.”
In an indication of how difficult Murphy was to defend, she attempted 14 free throws in the game and made seven of them.
“She got hot, and we kept her inside,” said Troup head coach Carla Thornton.
Murphy has started since day one, although it took some convincing by Thornton to let her know how effective she could be close to the basket.
As the season progressed, Murphy became a legitimate force in the paint, and she also has the ability to play the guard position and knock down outside shots.
Thornton’s message to Murphy before the season was “the more positions you can play, the more you can get on the court for me. And so she took that to heart, and she learned more than one position.”
Troup’s leading scorer during the fourth quarter in Tuesday’s game was Gilbert, who seems to always rise to the occasion when the game is on the line.
Gilbert had seven fourth-quarter points, and she came through with arguably the play of the game with a little less than three minutes to play.
Troup led by 10 points at the start of the third quarter, but that lead was trimmed to two with 3:15 to play.
On Troup’s ensuing possession, Gilbert drove past her defender, and went strong to the basket and scored while getting fouled. Gilbert made the free throw to complete the three-point play, putting Troup back on top by five with 2:55 left in the game.
Troup was in control the rest of the way, and it ended up winning by a double-digit margin.
Another player who came up big for Troup late in the game was Samarria Weldon, who scored four or her six points in the fourth quarter, and she also took a charge that helped her team seal the deal in the final minute.
Aniya Palmer was a bit off her scoring average, but she still scored seven important points and was 3-of-3 from the free-throw line.
Monyia Murphy scored four points, all in the third quarter when Troup outscored McDonough 21-8.
Darnesheyuna McCollough played in all four quarters and had two points in the third quarter, and Jada Green also played the whole game.
It was Troup’s second straight road game in the state tournament, and once again the team had tremendous crowd support.
It appeared that the majority of the fans in the gym on Tuesday were Troup supporters, and that didn’t go unnoticed.
“It means everything, just to know that we have a support system behind us, no matter what, win or lose,” said junior Monyia Murphy. “They’re there for us. I’m just thankful. We took our first loss (against Sandy Creek), and they were all there, they cheered us on.”
Thornton noticed that the folks cheering for the team on Tuesday weren’t just from Troup.
“I saw some Callaway people, I saw some LaGrange people,” Thornton said. “Hats off to them. It’s people from all over the community, not just Troup people. That means a lot.”
Next up for Troup is defending state-champion Carver, and those teams will play at 2 p.m. on Friday at Fort Valley State.
Carver will play without its top player, Olivia Cochran, who will have to sit out Friday’s game after getting two technical fouls in the quarterfinals against Woodward Academy.
The winner of Friday’s game will play in the state-championship game on March 6 in Macon.
OF NOTE: For a preview of the semifinal game, see Friday’s sports section.