CHATSWORTH, Ga. - Less was definitely more for the Troup County Tigers on Wednesday night in their GHSA Class AAA second-round boys' playoff game at Murray County.
Troup had made a living all season with its fullcourt, pressing style of defense, but when Murray began ripping it to shreds, Tigers' coach Thurmond Billingslea decided to back off and play a halfcourt man-to-man defense that still maintained an aggressive nature. The result was a dominating second half as Troup eliminated the Indians, 82-70.
Troup (24-4) will face top-ranked Columbia on Saturday in the quarterfinal round at the Northwest Georgia Trade Center. Murray County, a team with 10 seniors, ends its season at 26-3.
"This was the best-coached group we've played," Billingslea said. "They knew each other very, very well. We've played folks more athletic at times, but no one that knew where each other was on the floor all the time."
That familiarity led to eight layups in a first period that saw Murray point guard Zach England orchestrate successful fastbreak after successful fastbreak. It was then Billingslea decided to pull back and let his team's superior quickness clog up passing lanes and stop any penetration.
From the start of the second period, the Indians committed 15 turnovers and often had to settle for off balance shots or long jumpers.
"We play fullcourt, but we had to change because 12 [England] was killing us," Billingslea smiled. "He was running around us like we were standing still. We started picking them up at halfcourt and switching. That gave us a better chance of rebounding the ball as well because up
that point they were killing us on the glass."
GHSA Class AAA second round
TROUP COUNTY 82, MURRAY COUNTY 70
Troup 13 23 17 29 - 82
Murray 19 14 19 18 - 70
Troup (82) - Quan Bray 27, Frazier, Lakeithin Buckner 14, Eric Bridges 25, McGee 4, Jalen Washington 12, Z. Washington, Cumberlander, Jackson.
Murray (70) - Chase Jones 28, Blake Hammontree 11, England 5, Hall 6, Taylor Patterson 14, White 2, Thompson 2, Simpson 2, Spivey.
3-point goals: Troup 5 (Bray 2, Buckner 2, Bridges); Murray 2 (Hammontree, Patterson). Other highlights: Bridges 10 r; J. Washington 8 r ; Bray 4 s (TC); Patterson 8 r, 6 b; Jake White 3 s (MC). Records: Troup 22-4; Murray 26-3.
Troup, thanks to consecutive 3-pointers by Lakeithin Buckner late in the second period, held a 36-33 lead at the half. That lead was quickly stretched to 13 with a 10-0 run highlighted by five points from future Auburn Tigers' football player Quan Bray, including a long 3-pointer.
The Indians, though, turned to senior forward Chase Jones to get them back in the game. With Troup paying extra attention to Murray leading scorer Taylor Patterson, Jones was able to drive with success, scoring six consecutive points to cut the lead to seven. He finished the third period off with six more in a row to cut the once-big lead to one, 53-52, to start the fourth.
A Patterson short jumper gave Murray a brief 54-53 lead, but the Indians would not get another basket for four minutes as several shots rimmed out and other possessions were cut short by six turnovers. Meanwhile, with Bray and Eric Bridges running out on any long Murray shot, Troup hit four consecutive layups to take a 63-57 lead with 4:40 to go.
Seven free throws by Bridges over a two-minute span pushed the lead to 12 with 1:56 remaining and the Indians never threatened again.
"We just never were able to adjust to their quickness," said Jones, who led all scorers with 28 points. "We had seven men on the court in practice this week to try and simulate their quickness, but you really can't. We just couldn't keep up with them. When they went on runs we just had to make baskets. If we could score that would slow them down some, but we didn't."
Bray topped Troup with 27 points, while Bridges added 25 - 10 in the final period - to go with 14 from Buckner and 12 from Jalen Washington. Patterson added 14 points, eight boards and six blocks for the Indians.