Troup County “Trusts the Process” in 65-62 upset of No. 7 Cartersville

Troup County 65, No. 7 Cartersville 62

There’s no better way to start your work week than with some Monday night basketball, afforded to us by last week’s snow-outs. Class AAAA No. 7 Cartersville (14-3, 7-1) entered with a perfect Region 5 record while host Troup County (9-8, 4-3) was in search of a signature win in Year 1 of the Blake Craft era. A successful defensive game plan coupled with red-hot shooting helped the Tigers weather a late Hurricane surge to send shockwaves through the rest of the region.

Cartersville opened with an early 5-2 lead with Isaac Gridley causing problems inside defensively, swatting away two shots in the first four minutes of the game. After seeing the interior temporarily closed down by Gridley, the Tigers turned to star senior guard Jay Jefferson to set the pace.

The unsigned 6-foot-2 playmaker created offense for his teammates, finding Tristen Ware for two of his eight points.

From that point on, Jefferson took it upon himself to carry the offensive load. He poured in 12 points including two threes that would give Troup a 16-12 lead after one.

While Jefferson paced the Tigers, senior TJ Horton led the Hurricanes. Known primarily as a slasher, the athletic 6-foot-3 guard got loose for two of his four three-pointers in the opening quarter, while Furman-signee Jaylon Pugh was held to two points on a pair of free throws.

Troup made a concerted effort to hone in on Pugh and forced the potent scorer to take contested shots, firing two air-balls in the first half.

As Pugh struggled, Jefferson continued to shine. He knocked down two more threes to finish with 18 first half points. He received help from sophomore point guard Trey Williams, who orchestrated the offense, collecting seven assists on the night and teaming up with Lenntavis Harper and others to slow down Pugh.

After trailing 28-18, on yet another Jefferson three-ball, Cartersville started to fight fire with fire. The Canes knocked down three straight from distance, two via Perignon Dyer and one from Luke Schiltz to close the gap to 32-27 with 1:20 remaining in the first half.

Troup County hit their sixth three of the first half and the 11th for the two teams combined with 12 seconds to play as Jarell Smith entered for the first time and immediately sank one from the corner to give the Tigers a 35-27 lead at halftime.

As both teams retreated to their respective locker rooms, the Cartersville coaching staff took about three minutes to collect themselves on the bench while their team had a players-only gathering. Whatever was said, didn’t effectively make a difference right away as the third quarter followed suit of the first two, as Jefferson came out firing with two more of his six three-pointers.

At the 4:58 mark, Pugh finally broke through with his first field goal of the game after a two-point opening half, bringing the deficit to 42-35.

The Tigers responded with a quick 5-0 spurt, capped by a Montez Crowe put-back to hold a 12-point advantage.

As Pugh remained dormant, held to three points in the quarter and now five for the game, Horton’s deft shooting kept the Hurricanes afloat. Every time the Tigers would knock down a three and look to put the game out of reach, Horton would answer.

At the end of three quarters, Troup County held a 52-41 lead.

In the fourth quarter with the game on the line, the volcano finally erupted.

A seemingly innocuous put-back at the 6:49 mark with Cartersville trailing 54-43, ignited a Pugh scoring binge. Troup did a nice job of trying to put their finger in the dike, but the levee eventually broke with Pugh sensing the time and game slipping away.

Pugh went on a personal 9-0 run to bring the score to 57-50 with 5:04 remaining after his second three of the quarter.

The onslaught continued with Horton finishing in traffic with a euro-step to cut the lead to 57-56 with 2:17 left to play, the Hurricanes storming back on a 15-5 run.

With the score the same and the clock now showing 1:45, Jkobe Orr picked up a technical foul after committing a personal on Alabama linebacker-commit King Mwikuta. The 6-foot-4 center split a pair of free throws, as did Jefferson, slightly extending the lead to 59-56 instead of making it a two-possession game.

Cartersville trimmed the lead back down to one at 59-58 with 53.5 seconds left. Crowe was fouled and calmly knocked down both attempts with 33.7 seconds on the clock to push the lead to 61-58.

Pugh had a decent look from the corner with an opportunity to tie the game, but Jefferson came flying in at the last second to contest the shot, leading to a miss and sending Jefferson to the line for two free throws, sinking them both.

Down three with 6 seconds remaining, Cartersville had an opportunity at a steal on a dangerous inbound, but Pugh was unable to whip his head around in time to track the ball and Jefferson came down with it and iced the game with two more free throws before a last-second uncontested Gridley layup, giving the Tigers a crucial 65-62 home win.


My Take

Jay Jefferson brought it from the opening tip tonight and outplayed Furman’s Jaylon Pugh. Jefferson proved to be a reliable ball handler for Troup County and showed he could finish in the lane to add onto his locked-in three-point stroke. He went 5-of-6 from the line in the fourth quarter to seal the upset. Jefferson has the skills to help out at the JUCO and D2 level. He has good size at the point guard position, which bodes well in college. The Tiger role players put forth a strong effort. For many of them, basketball is their second sport with football being their expertise. Their football toughness was on display not only physically, but mentally as well. Quarterback Montez Crowe had five points, none bigger than his two ice-water free throws with 33.7 seconds left in a one-point game. King Mwikuta isn’t overly skilled in the pivot, but he’s a strong body that can take up space in the lane and move opponents. Tristen Ware used his athleticism on the defensive end two reject two shots. Sophomore point guard Trey Williams played extremely well for someone who didn’t score. He had four rebounds, seven assists and one block. He made good decisions when driving the lane and was able to squeeze passes into tight windows.

TJ Horton was consistent throughout for the Hurricanes while Pugh slept-walked his way through the first three quarters before turning on the microwave. Horton displayed an all-around game, hitting threes, getting to the basket and handing out four assists. Troup County did an exceptional job of knowing where Pugh was at all times, but in the fourth quarter, the scoring dynamo put on his superman cape and nearly saved the day. His 4-of-7 shooting from the foul line however, summed up his disjointed night. 6-foot-6 junior Isaac Gridley was steady as always, providing nine points, nine rebounds and three blocks. He has a nice touch for a big man and could be an option at the NAIA level or maybe higher once he’s a senior.

Top Performers

Troup County
Jay Jefferson – 31 points (6 threes), 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 block
Tristen Ware – 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Lenntavis Harper – 8 points, 1 assist
King Mwikuta – 7 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block
Montez Crowe – 5 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Trey Williams – 0 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 block

TJ Horton – 22 points (4 threes), 1 rebound, 4 assists, 2 steals
Jaylon Pugh – 16 points (11 in 4Q), 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal
Isaac Gridley – 9 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks
Perignon Dyer – 6 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists

One thought on “Troup County “Trusts the Process” in 65-62 upset of No. 7 Cartersville”

Comments are closed.