By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
TROY — Sure, the Troy girls basketball team had lost games this season entering Wednesday night’s rivalry matchup with Piqua.
But not one it had worked so hard for — and Troy coach Aaron Johnson hopes his Trojans can make it into a turning point in their season.
“I hate to say this, but one of the best things I saw in that locker room was that the girls were mad,” he said. “And I told them that’s the hunger — don’t let that go away. Keep that hunger.”
In the end, the Trojans rallied from a 12-point third-quarter deficit to tie the score — and even missed a fast-break layup attempt in the final seconds of regulation that would have won the game, instead taking Piqua to overtime. In the extra period, though, the Indians were able to claim the advantage early and hit their free throws late to grind out a 50-47 Miami Valley League Miami Division victory Wednesday at the Trojan Activities Center.
The mood in Piqua’s locker room afterward? The exact opposite.
“The kids were really up for this one,” Piqua coach Greg Justice said. “That was just a great team effort. This is a big rivalry, of course, I’m exhausted, and I think the kids are, too. But it’s good to come in here and get a win.”
The win was Piqua’s sixth straight, making the Indians 9-3 overall and 6-3 in the MVL Miami Division, while Troy lost for the fourth time in its last five games, falling to 5-7 overall and 4-5 in division play.
In the overtime, Piqua’s Tylah Yeomans — who finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Indians — hit a putback give Piqua the lead, and then four turnovers kept Troy from ever getting closer than two points as Karley Johns hit six straight free throws to seal the win.
“Defensively, we stepped up in the overtime, forced some turnovers and got some easy buckets to get a little bit of a lead and hit our free throws down the stretch,” Justice said.
Piqua led most of the first half, holding a slim 15-13 lead after one and a 24-21 halftime lead. But to start the third quarter, Troy missed four point-blank shots right at the basket, and the Indians were able to take advantage, with Kenzi Anderson hitting a pair of 3-pointers during a 9-0 run that gave Piqua its biggest lead of the night at 33-21.
“When we go back and watch this tape, we’ll see how many bunnies we missed,” Johnson said. “How many times did we miss an easy shot? I think we will see five, six, seven different possessions where we didn’t really take care of the ball or finish that opportunity.”
But Troy was able to battle back, answering with a 9-0 run of its own to get back to within three at 33-30, and Piqua only held a five-point lead heading into the fourth.
“That 12-point lead, we hit some big 3s to get to that point. And I think we were all expecting that to continue,” Justice said. “We probably should have settled for layups more, but that’s the 3 for you. It gets you ahead, but it can take you right out, too.”
And the Trojans dialed up a full-court press to start the fourth quarter, forcing eight of Piqua’s 20 turnovers on the night during the final eight minutes of regulation to help them close the gap even further, until Macie Taylor hit a 3-pointer to tie the score early in the quarter.
“I told the girls that that was the most consistent four-quarter stretch that they’ve played all year,” Johnson said. “They played hard, there was energy, they were focused.
“The press helped, and that was all heart and guts and effort. And it was so great to see that from this group. That pressure and their hustle showed me something, and that’s how we clawed back into this game.”
From there, Troy took a 41-37 lead with 2:17 to play, but a pair of buckets by Aubree Schrubb tied the score again at 41-41 with 1:10 to go. Piqua missed a contested shot with roughly five seconds to go, and Troy missed a wide-open layup going the other way as time expired to send the game to overtime, where Yeomans and Johns helped the Indians put the win away.
After Yeomans’ double-double, Anderson hit three 3s and finished with 11 points and Johns added 11 points, going 6 for 6 from the free throw line in overtime for the Indians. Schrubb added seven points and seven rebounds, Kathy Young had three points and Tayler Grunkemeyer had two points, five rebounds and six assists.
Taylor led all scorers with 21 points and added four rebounds and four assists for Troy, while Tia Bass posted a double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. Laura Borchers added eight points and Brynn Siler scored six.
“This is a great stepping stone, and we’re going to build off of this,” Johnson said. “We’ve never played this hard and executed for four quarters. We’ve never played man-t0-man for an entire game. There’s a lot of things we haven’t done, and we’re going to build off of this.”
Both teams are back in action Saturday, with Troy traveling to Greenville and Piqua hosting Butler.
Contact Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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