Lady Tigers get championship shot
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They weren’t going to be denied.
With a trip to the state-championship game on the line, the Troup Lady Tigers (27-1) took Carver’s best shot and surged to a 56-47 victory on Friday afternoon in the semifinals of the Class AAAA state tournament at Fort Valley State.
Troup and Americus-Sumter will meet for the state title next Friday in Macon, with tip-off set for 11 a.m.
“It’s many days of practice, working hard together,” said sophomore Aniya Palmer, who had a remarkable all-around game that included nine blocked shots. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but we go out and play ball.”
Samarria Weldon, who had six key points during the third quarter, said “we’ve had to work hard. We just wanted it. Now we’re here (in the championship game).”
The game was tight early, with Palmer scoring late in the first quarter to give Troup a 14-13 lead.
The Lady Tigers were ahead by four when they closed the first half on a 9-4 run to take a 31-22 lead.
Troup remained in control in the third quarter, outscoring Carver 15-11 to seize a 46-31 lead heading to the final quarter.
Troup led by 16 points with a little more than two minutes to play when Carver went on a late 7-0 run in the final minutes, but it was too little, too late.
Freshman Alexcia Murphy led Troup with 15 points, and she also had 10 rebounds.
Palmer made a massive impact on the game with 13 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocked shots.
Amber Gilbert contributed eight points and 11 rebounds, and Jada Green also had eight points.
Troup’s game plan from the get-go was to speed the game up and look for fast-break opportunities, and that resulted in a lot of points in transition.
“They like to run, and they like to trap, but we like to run, too,” said Troup head coach Carla Thornton. “So, it kind of worked out in our favor. We tried to counter everything they threw at us. We watched plenty of film, and my girls they study plenty of film themselves. So, to go out there and actually put it into action is pretty amazing.”
Palmer, who was in the midst of a lot of those fast-break opportunities either as a finisher or a distributor, said the Lady Tigers were always looking to run the floor.
“We’d get a rebound, and one of our teammates takes off, and we’d throw it down the court,” Palmer said. “We work together as a team, and move the ball around.”
Carver was without its top player, McDonald’s All-American Olivia Cochran, who was suspended for the game after getting two technical fouls in the quarterfinals against Woodward Academy.
Even without Cochran, Carver had plenty of talented players on the court, but it was Troup’s day to shine.
“It was unfortunate what happened to their player, but they still have a great team,” Thornton said. “We had to bring our best effort in order to beat them. I’m happy with the effort my girls gave tonight.”
The game began to turn in Troup’s favor late in the first half.
Troup was ahead by a slim four-point margin when Gilbert scored with 3:30 left in the first half, pushing the lead to 24-18.
The lead was seven when Monyia Murphy hit a mid-range jumper with 18 seconds left in the second quarter to make it a 31-22 game, and that was the score at the half.
Troup continued to pull away in the third quarter.
The lead was 10 when Weldon made back-to-back baskets, putting Troup on top 43-29 with 2:20 left in the third quarter.
By the time the third quarter came to a close, Troup had a 15-point lead.
The Lady Tigers maintained a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter, with Palmer scoring six points in transition to help her team finish things off.
It has been a spectacular season for the Lady Tigers, and Thornton said everyone is doing their part.
“We hold each other accountable,” she said. “We get on to each other when we’re not doing what we need to do. At the same time, we’re going to lift each other up. That’s a great thing.”
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