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Lady Tigers eye another special season

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

A special season came to an unsatisfactory conclusion for the Troup Lady Tigers.

After reaching the Class AAAA state-championship game in the state basketball tournament, Troup’s title hopes were dashed with a 66-52 loss to Americus-Sumter.

With most of the key players from that team returning, expectations will be high when the 2020-2021 season rolls around in November.

To prepare for the season, Troup’s players have been coming to the school for the past three weeks for summer workouts.

For the first two weeks of summer workouts, the players weren’t permitted to use basketballs, so it was all about strength training.

This week, the players were allowed to use basketballs for the first time, so they’ve been in the gym, drilling and working on their games under the watchful eyes of head coach Carla Thornton.

“Our worst game of the season was our last game, so that kind of left a bad taste in our mouths,” Thornton said. “We were happy to get to that point, but I felt like we let each other down. So, it feels good to get back to work and try to correct our mistakes.”

Since that loss, a focus of Thornton’s has been making sure the players will be physically prepared for whatever challenges they face next season.

“We felt like we need to get stronger,” Thornton said, reflecting on the loss to Americus-Sumter. “We felt like the last team we lost to was stronger than us, so we needed to get back in there (to the weight room).”

Despite that loss, it was a spectacular season for Troup, which went unbeaten in the regular season and finished with a 27-2 record.

After losing to Sandy Creek in the Region 5-AAAA championship game, Troup won four games in the state tournament before falling to Americus-Sumter.

Troup earned its spot in the championship game by beating defending state-champion Carver 66-52.

“That season is something we’ll all talk about forever,” Thornton said.

One week after the Americus-Sumter game, everything shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Schools were closed, and all athletic activities in Troup County were suspended.

After three months the Georgia High School Association cleared the way for voluntary summer workouts to begin on June 8, and Thornton was glad to be re-united with a group of players who mean so much to her.

“A lot of times you get caught up in the other stuff, and it can take away from your happiness, so we just wanted to get back to what makes us happy, and what we enjoy, and that’s being together, and celebrating life together,” Thornton said.

The team will continue to hold workouts throughout the summer, and Thornton understands that the participation level will vary day to day.

“It’s voluntary,” Thornton said. “Some parents might not be comfortable yet with their kids coming, so I understand that. And some have to babysit their siblings. I understand all that, but anyone who is willing to work out, I’ll be here.”

Looking ahead to a new season, the Lady Tigers figure to be in the championship mix once again.

Leading scorer and four-year starter Amber Gilbert has graduated and has signed a letter of intent to play basketball at East Georgia State College, but nearly every other key player returns, including Aniya Palmer, Alexcia Murphy, Monyia Murphy, Samarria Weldon Jada Green and Darnesheyuna McCollough.

Thornton’s message to the players is to be prepared to receive a maximum effort from every opponent.

“This year we’re starting off with a target,” Thornton said. “We finished the season ranked number two, and I’m sure we’re still going to be up there at the beginning of next season. They know about you. When people are gunning for you, you have to come prepared to win every single day.”