Lady Tigers finish one win short of a title
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
MACON – It wasn’t the storybook ending they were hoping for, but what a ride it was for the Troup Lady Tigers.
The finest season in the history of the program came to a close with a 66-52 loss to Americus-Sumter in the Class AAAA state-championship game on Friday in Macon.
It was only the second loss of the season for the Lady Tigers (27-2), who won four games in the state tournament to make it to Macon.
“It’s been amazing,” said Troup head coach Carla Thornton. “My girls were going to give me everything they got every time they take the court. Even when things didn’t go our way, they still fought, still got back in the game.”
Thornton’s message to the players was “this is a moment you’ll remember forever. On March 6, 2020, you were playing for a state championship. Not many people do that. We’re grateful. So congratulations to them, and don’t be down on yourself because you lost.”
For the second straight week, Troup found itself piling up a bunch of fouls early in the game.
Troup was able to overcome that in the semifinals against Carver, but not against Americus-Sumter, which was in the bonus midway through the first quarter.
Some of Troup’s key players, including Amber Gilbert and Aniya Palmer, saw their playing time severely limited because of foul trouble.
Gilbert, Troup’s leading scorer this season, received her fourth foul midway through the third quarter and was forced to the bench, and she fouled out late in the game.
“That changed our whole game plan,” Thornton said of the fouls.
The fouls, Thornton added, had a major affect on her team’s ability to get things done inside.
“We lost our size, we lost our shot blockers and put in guards,” she said. “They got going on attacking the basket and finishing on inside, which is something a lot of people don’t do on us. We tried to counter what they did, but it is difficult when you have too many smalls in the game.”
Troup had a 6-5 lead after Jada Green made a 3-pointer less than three minutes into the game, but Americus-Sumter closed the first quarter on a 12-3 run to go ahead 17-9.
Americus-Sumter stretched its lead to 13 before Palmer made a 3-pointer with 2:38 left in the first half, getting Troup within 10.
Troup hung tough, and Green’s basket with 18 seconds left in the second quarter trimmed the Americus-Sumter lead to 31-23, and that was the score at the half.
The Lady Tigers continued the surge early in the second half, with Gilbert’s 3-pointer getting her team within five with 5:52 left in the third quarter.
Americus-Sumter built its lead back to 12 points, but by the close of the third quarter its lead was down to 46-38.
The Lady Tigers got within seven points on a basket by Palmer with 4:58 to play, but that’s as close as they came the rest of the way.
Following Palmer’s basket, Americus-Sumter went on a 6-0 run to go ahead 55-42 with 3:50 to play.
Troup got as close as 10 points on a Gilbert 3-pointer with a little more than three minutes to play, but Americus-Sumter maintained at least a double-digit lead for the remainder of the game.
Gilbert, playing the final game of a memorable high-school career, led Troup with 15 points while making three 3-pointers.
Palmer, one of the many talented players who’ll return next season, added 13 points, and Darnesheyuna McCollough and Green had eight and seven points, respectively.
Alexcia Murphy scored six points, all in the third quarter.
Trinity Jones led Americus-Sumter with 21 points while making 7-of-8 attempts from the free-throw line.
Jelissa Reese also had a big game with 19 points, and she was 5-of-8 from the line.
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