Both teams have winning records, and they’re both positioned near the top of the Region 6-AAA standings, which should make for plenty of drama when the teams meet at Troup tonight.
The Grangers are 9-6 overall and 2-1 in the region, while the Tigers are 12-3 and 3-2, and they recently moved into the Class AAA top 10 for the first time.
“Everybody is excited,” LaGrange head coach Mike Pauley said. “Troup is a very good team, and our guys are just ready to go out and show what they can do.”
The Grangers returned from an 11-day break to beat Columbus 68-59 Tuesday, putting them above .500 in the region.
The Grangers had two games postponed because of the winter weather, and Pauley said they used the time to focus on improving their overall energy in practice, in hopes that it will translate over into a game situation.
“We have really put a lot of emphasis on playing with energy and improving our defensive play,” Pauley said. “We have really concentrated on how are we helping, where is it coming from and where is the energy coming from.”
Pauley said the focus in practice this week has been preparing for what he figures will be a “chaotic” atmosphere tonight.
In Wednesday’s practice, Pauley said. “we were a little more chaotic than we normally are because we had a tough time caroling the guys energy.
“We are trying to do things that mimic games. That’s why I allowed a little bit of the chaos because we want to be ready for how chaotic games can be. There is going to be a big crowd (today) and a lot of energy so we want to make sure that we are ready to handle that. It made it a lot of fun.
“Some of that stuff we were doing we felt like that it created some energy and breathed some new life into what can become mundane.”
For the Tigers, who are coming off of back-to-back blowout wins over region foes Central-Carroll and Haralson County, the goal is to maintain the status quo.
“We are just going to go out there and play the same game we always do and try to come out with a victory,” Troup head coach Thermond Billingslea said. “We have just been focused on continuing to play good fundamentally sound basketball.”
The Tigers have been a dynamic team this season with Eric Bridges leading the way.
Bridges has been putting up big numbers, and he was named the MVP of the LaGrange Toyota Basketball Classic in December.
Quan Bray has also been a consistent scorer, and the Tigers have a deep roster with a number of players capable of making an impact.
Pauley said a main focus for his team will be “to minimize the amount of easy baskets that they get. We hope to do that by just having solid offensive ball control. We want to make sure that we get the ball to the basket and not just work side to side. It’s the little things in a game like this that can change the tempo so fast.”
For Troup, the challenge will be slowing a balanced offense that doesn’t rely on one or two players to score big every night.
In Tuesday’s win over Columbus, Kwame Brown, Dee Alford and Jake Pauley each scored in double digits, and Justyn Olson had nine points.
“LaGrange is a really good sound basketball team,” Billingslea said. “We are just going to have to play exceptionally in order to win. You have to take care of the basketball and you can’t make a lot of mistakes. If you make a lot of mistakes and have a lot of turnovers you cant win. We have to rise to the occasion and do what we know we can do.”