A flurry of treys from Troup's Jay Jefferson at the end of the first half and start of the second soured Senior Night for the Central High School boys' basketball team on Tuesday evening.
Despite a huge charge from Lion senior standout Josh McClendon down the stretch, Central couldn't overcome the double-dight halftime deficit and fell in a 76-64 region decision.
Jefferson's hot hand turned a seven-point game into a 17-point margin in a matter of minutes of actual game clock, as he drilled a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to make it a 33-23 tally at the break and opened the third quarter with another dagger from downtown before connecting on a four-point play upon draining a trey and getting fouled on the play.
The quick shift of momentum forced the Lions (9-13, 1-9 Region 5-AAAA) to play catch-up the rest of the night, and Troup (12-9, 7-4) simply had too much size and athleticism to overcome.
"Troup County does a great job with all of that length and size and they make you take tough shots. Late in the half, we just couldn't get in a good tempo," Central head coach Deion Sims said. "We're always working too hard to get a shot. Once we got away from getting easy buckets, it was hard for us to get over those guys because of their size and their length."
McClendon began his scoring barrage in the second half to keep the Lions in the contest, dropping 24 of his game-high 30 points after the break to help Central pull back within 10 points early in the fourth quarter, but that's as close as it would get as Troup put the game away with a 14-5 run to stretch the margin back up to 19 points.
Along with the big night from McClendon, Jarrod Jackson added seven points and Dylan Adams finished with six for Central. Jefferson powered the Tiger attack with 28 points, while King Mwikuta posted 12 points with eight rebounds and Montez Crowe chipped in 10 points with six rebounds.
Central now has two games remaining this week, traveling to LaGrange today for a 7:30 p.m. weather make-up and then hosting fourth-ranked Sandy Creek on Friday in the regular-season finale.
With the Lions already locked into the play-in game for the Region 5-AAAA Tournament against Chapel Hill, there's no secret as to what's on tap looking ahead.
"We already know who we're going to play in our region tournament. We've already got one win on Chapel Hill, so we're going to focus on building some momentum going into region tournament. We know we can beat Chapel Hill. We know what we've got to do, so we've just got to keep working hard," Sims said.