Troup beats North Clayton, sets up Valentine’s Day date with LaGrange with a spot in the playoffs on the line

Published 10:03 pm Monday, February 13, 2023

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By Noah Patheja

The Troup varsity boys had to beat North Clayton at home to stay alive in the postseason, and the Tigers did just that in a 75-70 victory Monday that sets up a Valentine’s Day date with LaGrange High.

Troup head coach Jairo Gay was thrilled with how his boys fought back after a first quarter slump.

“I think we made a couple adjustments at the end of the first quarter,” Gay said.

“We got an offensive push. We took a gamble, and the rest is history. We had a great second quarter.”

Gay was also impressed by two of his freshmen, Dee Moreland and Jalen Brown.

“They both played extremely well tonight,” Gay said.

“They played with poise. They played with confidence.”

Moreland had 17 points while Brown had 18.

The Tigers got off to a slow start in the first quarter, but it didn’t help that the shot clock didn’t work for the entire quarter.

Gay didn’t feel like the lack of shot clock contributed to the slow start.

“The shot clock hasn’t really affected us all season long,” Gay said.

“I think we had one shot clock violation the entire season. We play as if the shot clock isn’t even on.”

North Clayton took a quick 21-14 lead at the end of the first quarter with their dangerous perimeter game, but Brown and Taeo Todd combined for nine of the Tigers’ first quarter points.

The second quarter was a completely different story as the Tigers locked down on defense and had success driving to the basket.

After being down 28-21, the Tigers mounted an 11-0 run and took their first lead of the game in the middle of the second quarter thanks to a Deo’vion Tucker free throw along with a North Clayton technical foul.

The Tigers continued their fast offense and took a 38-34 lead at halftime thanks to 10 first half points from Brown.

The third quarter seemed to be a bungee cord for the Tigers as every time they created some separation with their lead, North Clayton fought back.

The Tigers took a 54-50 lead at the end of the quarter thanks to six third quarter points from Brown.

The fourth quarter started out strong as Taeo Todd and Tucker opened with baskets to give Troup a 58-50 lead.

North Clayton brought it back within two, but a basket from Brown and a three from Tucker gave the Tigers a 65-68 lead with four minutes left in the fourth.

North Clayton once again fought back and tied the game up with a minute and a half left thanks to a basket from Keshaun Dixon.

With only a minute left, the Tigers got key baskets from Dee Moreland and Brown to secure the win.

Gay helped his guys stay composed every time the Eagles got back in the game.

“They have to play with heart,” Gay said.

“We know what we’re capable of doing. We just have to go in and finish the game. One thing that was a concern was exchanging baskets. I told them we needed a stop. We’re a young team trying to figure it out. They listened to the message and responded.”

Troup got into foul trouble in the fourth quarter and even had one defensive possession with three fouls.

Gay doesn’t feel like that changed the game too much.

“We’re a resilient team,” Gay said.

“We know that when adversity comes, we play through it. We preach it in practice. We knew that we had to continue to play our game and be aggressive. Even if we fouled, they had to learn to adjust. The guys responded well.”

Gay will now prepare his guys for the rivalry against LaGrange.

“We have to win tomorrow and on Thursday to make the state tournament,” Gay said.

“We’re looking forward to it. We had LaGrange on their heels on Friday. We’re prepared for it.”