Americus-Sumter built an eight-point lead over Troup in the first quarter of the Class AAAA girls basketball championship game Friday despite turning the ball over 12 times.
The Panthers protected the ball better after that, committing just nine more turnovers in the final three quarters. And while the Panthers couldn’t pull away until late in the fourth quarter, they never really let Troup threaten to get back in the game, either.
Trinity Jones scored 11 of her game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter and Jelissa Reese played steady throughout and scored 19 points to lead Americus-Sumter to a 66-52 victory at the Macon Centreplex.
The state title was the second in five seasons for second-ranked Americus-Sumter (29-2) and marked a dramatic turnaround from last year, when the Panthers finished 11-15 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Americus-Sumter still had an eight-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, and a 3-pointer by Jones less than a minute into the period increased it to 49-38. Troup cut the deficit to 49-42 on a jumper by Amber Gilbert and a layup by Aniya Palmer with five minutes to play, but the fifth-ranked TIgers (27-2) would get no closer. Troup was 9-for-10 from the free-throw line in the final 4:06 to put the game away. Jones made two layups and was 4-for-4 on free throws in the final four minutes.
“I thought we carried out our game plan. The girls stuck with it, stuck with it,” Americus-Sumter coach Sherri Harris said. “We had a lot of unforced turnovers that first half, and thank the Lord they didn’t come back to haunt us later in the game. And we knocked down free throws in the second half. I told the girls, ‘Let’s close this thing out. Get up there and hit your free throws, and let’s go home state champs.
Americus-Sumter was able to overcome the first-quarter turnovers by outrebounding the Tigers 12-3, creating nine Troup turnovers and pushing the ball up the court, leading to a 12-0 advantage in points in the paint.
A free throw by Darnesheyuna McCullough with 3:59 to play in the quarter put Troup ahead 7-5, its last lead of the game. Americus-Sumter outscored the Tigers 12-2 over the remainder of the quarter for a 17-9 lead. Reese had five points during that run.
“If you noticed, every time the ball came off the rim, we were trying to run up and down the court,” Harris said. “That kinda gets us going. We keep the energy, and we control the tempo of the game. That’s usually what we’re trying to do.”
Tiffani Goodman scored six points and had a team-best 10 rebounds for the Panthers, who finished with a 45-27 advantage on the boards. De’Asia Ford and Brianna Pope scored seven points each.
Gilbert made three 3-pointers and finished with 15 points to lead Troup. Palmer added 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Americus-Sumter - 17-14-15-20 - 66
Troup - 9-14-15-14 - 52
Americus-Sumter (66): Tiffani Goodman 6, Trinity Jones 21, Jelissa Reese 19, De’Asia Ford 7, Brianna Pope7, Kaylin Holley, Trinity Jackson 6.
Troup (52): Aniya Palmer 13, Monyia Murphy 2, Jada Green 7, Alexia Murphy 6, Amber Gilbert 15, Darnesheyuna McCullough 8, Samama Weldon 1, Tashauna Askew.
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