On paper, the game should have been a blowout.
LaGrange High was undefeated in the region. The Grangers were ranked third in the Class AAAA state basketball poll. LaGrange High’s opponent on this night, the Troup Tigers, entered play with a losing record.
But this Region 5-AAAA boys game on Friday night was anything but a laugher. The game was up for grabs in the fourth quarter before the Grangers beat Troup High, 66-63 with one final burst.
In the words of Granger senior guard Jarious Freeman, “Troup is a good team, and this was a tough game. We got some stops (when necessary). We haven’t really peaked yet.”
This game was not decided, however, until the last eight minutes at Troup High. There was a standingroom- only crowd of 1,300 fans in the Tigers gym. The spectators were gasping and groaning on every shot and each and every flying body on the floor.
It was physical. It was a bruising brand of basketball. No blood, no foul.
There were pushes in the back. The Grangers and the Tigers just played on.
“Rivalry games are usually close. Troup made some runs, but Jarious (Freeman) hit some shots. Bo (Russell) played well. Anytime you beat your rival, that’s good,” said LaGrange High head coach Mark Veal.
The Grangers did what they had to. LaGrange High maintained its lead with a putback from senior forward Quez Jackson and a Freeman three-pointer with 6:02 left. LaGrange High was still on top, 49-43.
GrangersseniorguardLaperion Perry would soon make it an eight-point lead with a pair of free throws. Troup High was not done. The Tigers replied with a three-point field goal from junior guard Jay Jefferson with 4:57 remaining.
Troup cut the LaGrange High lead to five points at 51-46. The Grangers had some more late-game fireworks with another Freeman three-pointer at the 3:56 mark of the fourth quarter.
Russell would add a layup for the Grangers with 1:51 remaining. But that came less than a minute after Troup High sophomore forward King Mwikuta bagged a 10-foot jumper.
In the final 45.8 seconds of play, Russell and Perry would just about put this game on ice with some crucial free throw shooting. But that was before Jay Jefferson drained a three-pointer for the Tigers with 19 seconds left. Troup trimmed the deficit to just three points at 6259. The Tigers would also get a field goal from the 6foot-4 Mwikuta in the final seconds. But LaGrange High would survive and improve its region record to 9-0.
The Grangers are 20-2 overall. LaGrange High won another road game, thanks to Russell and his 20 points, Freeman and his 14 points, and Perry and his 13 points.
The Troup High boys still made the Grangers work for this region victory.
“This town loves basketball, and we love getting after it. This was not a fluke. We took some better shots. We’re a good team, too. We’ve got some ninth and 10th-graders playing for us, and they’re starting to figure it out,” said TigersheadcoachPaulBrewer. “We’reknockingonthedoor.”
Troup High is now 8-13 overall and 3-6 in the region.
Chris Fernsler Sports Writer