Lady Tigers continue state-tournament journey
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
On a veteran team, a newcomer has provided a welcome spark for the Troup Lady Tigers.
Freshman Angie Dowdell has stepped in and played a key role this season, and she has helped the Lady Tigers advance to the third round of the Class AAAA state tournament.
Troup will visit Flowery Branch on Wednesday at 6 p.m., with the winner advancing to the semifinals to play Pickens or Cairo.
Last season, Troup made it to the state-championship game before losing to Americus-Sumter, and while Dowdell wasn’t a part of that team, she was there every step of the way as a fan.
“My last year I played with Long Cane, and I always wanted to be a part of the Troup High team,” Dowdell said. “I went to the state championship, and I watched every game they played. I always wanted to experience that. I want to go back to the state championship, and I want to experience the same thing they experienced, but I want a ring. I want a ring my freshman year. I’ll go out and play with the same intensity they had last year, and I want to push the tempo.”
Dowdell has been a consistent scorer throughout the season, averaging more than seven points per game, and she also takes on some of the ball-handling responsibilities while averaging close to four rebounds per game.
Dowdell’s season took a detour a few weeks ago when she was involved in a car accident, and after missing some time, she was thrilled to be back with her teammates.
“I had a car accident about two weeks ago. I couldn’t play for a couple of games,” Dowdell said. “I’m happy to be able to come back to the team and step up, and keep giving them intensity.”
Dowdell has scored 16 points in two games this season, and she had 15 points in a region-tournament victory over Kendrick.
Dowdell had nine points in an 80-38 win over New Hampstead in the first round of the state tournament, and in a 48-41 victory over Bainbridge in the second round, she had five points with three assists and three steals.
“She can take over a game. She’s a volume scorer,” said Troup head coach Carla Thornton. “She gets hot, she’ll go off for eight points in a row before you know it.”
Thornton also appreciates the hard-charging attitude Dowdell brings to the practice court.
“Even though she’s a freshman, sometimes she’s the one reminding everyone we’ve got to work harder if we want to win a state championship,” Thornton said.
Dowdell is surrounded by players who know what it takes to succeed this time of year.
Among the players who were a key part of last year’s team that came within a whisker of winning a state title are seniors Darnesheyuna McCullough and Jada Green, juniors Aniya Palmer, Monyia Murphy and Samarria Weldon, and sophomore Alexcia Murphy.
Senior Emelie Reed has also been a big part of this team and has started a handful of games.
Palmer, a three-year starter, is an electrifying player who does it all for the Lady Tigers.
Palmer leads Troup in scoring, averaging 13 points per game, and she’s also first on the team in assists, steals and blocked shots, and she’s second in rebounding.
Palmer, who has received numerous Division I offers, including one from Auburn, was rewarded for her good work by being named the Region 2-AAAA player of the year on Tuesday.
Alexcia Murphy, a post player who is a matchup problem for opposing teams, averages nearly 11 points per game, and she is Troup’s leading rebounder by a narrow margin over Palmer.
Weldon averages more than nine points per game, and she is one of Troup’s top defenders.
While Palmer and Alexcia Murphy were first-team selections on the all-region team, Weldon made the second team.
Green averages nine points per game, and Monyia Murphy scores five points per game and is a lock-down defender.
McCullough, one of five seniors on the team, scores close to five points per game, and she had 12 points in the state-tournament game against New Hampstead.
Troup’s opponent is a Flowery Branch team that finished second in the Region 8-AAAA tournament before winning two road games at state.
After knocking off McDonough 57-34 in the first round, Flowery Branch upset Marist 45-35 in the second round.
Flowery Branch (14-14) is a .500 ball club, but it has played a challenging schedule that includes two teams that are still playing.
“It’s all about peaking at the right time,” Thornton said. “It’s going to be a tough matchup. It’ll be a challenge for sure.”
While Flowery Branch will have home-court advantage, Thornton doesn’t mind being on the road.
“I think we tend to focus more on the road, because all you have are your teammates and basketball,” Thornton said. “No outside distractions.”
If Troup beats Flowery Branch, it will be on the road against Pickens County or Cairo in the semifinals.
The state-championship game will be in Macon on March 10 at 5 p.m.