LAGRANGE – The Troup Tigers put a scare into the region front-runner.
The Sandy Creek Patriots, who are tied for the top spot in Region 5-AAAA, found themselves in a hard-fought road game against Troup on Monday.
It was a two-point game as the fourth quarter began, and it remained close until the Patriots were able to pull away in the final minutes for a 66-52 victory.
While in no way satisfied with the loss, Troup head coach Paul Brewer felt the game was another indication of how much progress his team has made.
The Tigers had dropped six consecutive games before they thumped the Carrollton Trojans 66-38 at home on Jan. 19.
After a close road loss to Woodward Academy, which is tied for the region lead with Sandy Creek, Troup beat Whitewater 44-41 on Friday before hanging tough with the Patriots.
The Tigers (7-12 overall) are in last place in 5-AAAA with a 2-6 record, but as they’ve shown in their past four games, they have the ability to play with anyone in the region, including the Patriots.
“(The Patriots) played as hard as they could, and for 3 ½ quarters, there was no way you could look at these teams and say this team’s a lot better than that team,” Brewer said. “The last four minutes, you could say they played a lot better. That’s kind of when their experience took over.”
The Patriots (16-6 overall) improved to 6-2 in the region, and Brewer said they “brought their A game” to Troup’s gym.
“They played better tonight,” Brewer said. “They hadn’t been playing well. Tonight, they brought their A game. If they don’t bring their A game tonight, I think we would have won the game. But they did.”
Sophomore guard Jarrious Jefferson led the Tigers with 17 points, and he made three 3-pointers, all in the first half.
Isaac Moss and Keyshawn Russell each added 12 points for the Tigers.
Elias Harden had a big night for the Patriots with 29 points, and he scored 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Evan Jester, who had eight points in the opening quarter, added 16 points for the Patriots.
In the first half, it was more an up-tempo game, which was to the Patriots’ liking, but the Tigers hung in there.
The Patriots led 19-14 after the first quarter, but by the half, the game was tied 34-34.
Jefferson and Montez Crowe both made two 3-pointers in the second quarter as the Tigers pulled even.
In the third quarter, it was more of a deliberate pace, which was what Troup was wanting.
Neither team reached double digits in points in the third quarter, and Sandy Creek was clinging to a 43-41 lead as the final period began.
The Patriots had the ball late in the third quarter with a chance to add to their four-point lead, but Jefferson came up with a steal and scored with three seconds left to make it a two-point game.
“We didn’t win the third quarter points wise, but we won it style wise,” Brewer said. “We did what we wanted to do.”
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Patriots finally took control, and they put the game away.
“With four minutes to go in the game, and we might have run out of gas, we stopped executing,” Brewer said. “We didn’t break the press. Against a good team like we were playing tonight, you can’t break down.”
Troup has two regular-season games remaining, both on the road.
Troup plays Fayette County today and Carrollton on Friday, and the region tournament is next week.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports