Three local high school basketball teams continue pursuit of state title
Published 9:30 am Friday, February 24, 2023
The basketball playoffs have taken their toll and now only three Troup County area high school teams remain standing — LaGrange boys, LaGrange Academy girls, and the Troup girls. All three teams have eyes on making a deeper playoff run and it all starts this weekend.
The LaGrange boys team had no problems with Burke County in the opening round of the state playoffs earlier this week, brushing them aside 74-59. The Grangers did it with a collective effort that has been ever present all season. No player had more than 14 points with Devin Dowell and J’Arthur Dunn. The Grangers’ multi-pronged attack makes them difficult to defend.
This is the first time the Grangers made it to at least the second round of the playoffs since the 2016-17 season that saw the team make a run to the quarterfinals. The Grangers use a deep bench to outlast opponents and will hope to continue that team spirit going forward.
The Grangers will be on the road once again for their round of 16 game. LaGrange will travel to Baldwin High School for the game that is scheduled to tip-off on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Baldwin comes into the game as one seed and narrowly edged out Cairo 55-50 in its opening playoff game. Baldwin sits at 17-10 and share no common opponents with the Grangers this season.
A win will see the Grangers make their first quarterfinals appearance since that 2016-17 season. Regardless of whether Walnut Grove or Pace Academy win, the Grangers would be on the road for a potential quarterfinals matchup.
The Warriors got a first round bye and will be entering the playoffs as the no. 1 overall seed. LaGrange Academy will travel down to Macon to take on the ninth seeded Twiggs High School for the state quarterfinals. Tip-off is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
The Warriors have dominated this season, going 19-1 and are riding an 11-game win streak into Friday’s game. With a win the Warriors will match up with the winner of Robert Toombs and St. George’s next Wednesday at Carrollton in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. The state championship game is scheduled for March 3 at 3 p.m.
The Warriors have a dominant defense that has allowed just a smidge over 20 points a game.
Jazmin Thornton has been a force of nature for LaGrange Academy, averaging 28.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 6.5 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game as she stuffs the statsheet every time she takes to court.
Anna Beth Kinnersley will be another key player for the Warriors. She has come on strong down the stretch of the season and nearly averaged a double-double this year with 10.8 points per game and 9.4 rebounds. She also leads the team with 1.5 blocks a game while also averaging 4.2 steals.
The Warriors won a state title two years ago and are hungry to add another trophy to their collection.
After four straight exits in the first round of the playoffs from 2016-2019, the Tigers have now made it out of the first round for four seasons in a row.
Troup made a run to the championship game in 2020 and a semifinal run in 2021 before losing 63-47 in the round of 16 to Jefferson a season ago. The Tigers had to play without one of the best players in recent years — Aniyah Palmer — who missed the majority of that season and is now applying her craft at Mississippi State.
This allowed for the emergence of Alexcia Murphy who was named region 2-AAAA player of the year for her performances as a junior. Now a senior, Murphy has grown into a real leader for the team. She put the team on her back in the first round of the playoffs against Burke County, scoring 20 of her 22 points in the second half to spark a Tiger run that put the game to bed.
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Tigers as they looked to get some younger players some experience around Murphy.
Angie Dowdell has come on strong as a junior and helped lead the team. Freshman like Sheniyah Philpot have added some youthful positive energy that has helped the Tigers overcome a couple of tough losses in their last two games. Troup dropped the region semis game by two points and the third-place game by three points. The Tigers were not dismayed and took it to the no. 1 seeded Bears on Wednesday, coming away with a 66-54 victory.