By JAY NEAL, Jacksonville Daily Progress
RUSK — Sometimes it's the little things that make a big difference.
Westwood converted on 7-of-12 free throw attempts in overtime to defeat Troup 56-53 in a Class 2A, Region III, Area contest that was played before a near-capacity crowd at the 1,200-seat Eagle Coliseum at Rusk High School Friday night.
The 20th-ranked Panthers (22-10) will now move on to a regional date early next week with second-ranked White Oak.
Troup, who finished as co-champions in District 18-2A, along with Frankston, ends the year at 22-11.
The Panthers appeared to be on the verge of putting the game away in regulation as Westwood led 44-35, following a triple off the right wing by Jerry Turner that came with 5:29 to go in the game.
Turner led all players with 26 points, 14 of which came in the first half when he went 7-of-7 from the field.
But an 8-0 run by the Tigers gave Troup a new lease on things with the Tigers managing to tie the game at 45 with 1:28 left in regulation when An'Fernee Ross canned a deuce following a Westwood turnover.
After both clubs exchange miscues on subsequent possessions, Westwood's Chris Thompson was awarded two free throws after being fouled with 37 seconds showing on the clock.
Thompson failed to connect on either, with Troup's Shaquille Rollins coming down with the rebound.
Troup then had their chance to win in the closing seconds, but Hunter Clark missed the front end of a one and one with 3.5 ticks left in regulation.
Thompson collared the carom and after a Panther Hail Mary fell short, the two teams went to the extended session.
Westwood took the lead for good with just under a minute left in the bonus round.
That's when L.J. Hutchinson drained a short-range shot that gave the Panthers a 52-50 edge.
Westwood extended the margin to 55-50, but Troup got a triple off the right side from Ross that cut the score to 55-53.
The Ross trey came with 7 ticks showing on the clock.
Troup was forced to foul the rest of the way and did not get another shot opportunity.
The Westwood defense held the Tigers, who drained nine 3-pointers in their bi-district win over Jefferson on Tuesday, to 3-of-19 (15.8%) from beyond the arc.
Dra Ross finished with a double-double for the winners, netting 14 points and 15 rebounds, while Hutchison tossed in 11.
Lacy led the Tigers in scoring with 13 points followed by Ross with 11.
Blake Lynch came away with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Westwood led 25-23 at intermission.