By Josh Brown
TROY — When Springfield doubled down on the interior, Troy hit big outside shots.
When the Wildcats focused on the perimeter, the Trojans hammered it back inside.
And when the Wildcats needed a late rally, Troy’s defense locked everything down.
The Troy girls basketball team (7-6) got clutch long-range shooting from Jordan Short, a pummeling inside game from Alaura Holycross and company and a solid defensive effort — particularly in the fourth quarter — all helping the Trojans put away a 39-32 victory over visiting Springfield Saturday at the Trojan Activities Center.
“All in all, we were very pleased with the effort today,” Troy coach Aaron Johnson said. “We had some people step up today and do some good things. And I thought Jordan and Alaura really stepped up and led today. They were leaders.”
Two of Short’s season-high four 3-pointers in the game were as clutch as they come.
With Troy holding a narrow 7-4 lead late in the first quarter, Springfield (1-11) missed a pair of free throws with less than five seconds to go. Short was hit with a long pass at midcourt after Troy got the rebound, took two dribbles and banked in a long 3 at the buzzer to give the Trojans a shot of momentum and a 10-4 lead after one.
Troy led by as many as nine in the second quarter and maintained a five-point lead at halftime, but the Wildcats fought back to tie it at 23-23 early in the third. With the Trojans holding onto a slim 29-25 lead late in the quarter, Short drilled one final 3 and drew a foul, converting the four-point play to extend Troy’s lead to 33-25.
“We were only up 7-4, and I think that one took a little wind out of their sails as they were kind of hanging around, and that gave us a little breathing room,” Johnson said. “And that four-point play in the third, I thought that was huge.”
Springfield’s MaKayla DeArmond hit a 3 at the buzzer to make the score 33-28 heading into the fourth, but in the final quarter the Trojans went back inside and gave up nothing easy on defense.
Holycross scored the first five points of the fourth, hitting three free throws and connecting on a basket in the paint. And meanwhile, the Troy defense shut Springfield down, not allowing any points until the final minute — and by then, it was too late.
“We changed to a 3-2 zone and recognized where their shooters were. The goal was to stop penetration,” Johnson said. “I kind of thought they were scoring too much on penetration. And I thought Jenna Kaup, Gabbi Johnson, Jordan again, MaKenna Taylor and Valena Robinson at the top of that zone did a nice job of stopping that penetration. They started passing the ball around and around and had to start taking some 3s that I don’t think they really wanted to take.”
Troy built its biggest lead of the game at 39-28, but Caralyssa Byrd — who lead the Wildcats with 10 points and four rebounds — finished two fast breaks after Trojan turnovers to make the score 39-32 with 22 seconds to play. Springfield stole the ball again, but the defense kept the Wildcats from getting a good shot off, and Short grabbed the rebound and dribbled out the clock.
Short led all scorers with 15 points. Troy’s post presence was a huge factor also, though, as Holycross piled up 13 points — including going 9 of 13 from the free throw line — and grabbed four rebounds. Tia Bass added six points and six rebounds — mostly on the offensive end — and Lauren McGraw, in her second straight start, had two points and four rebounds.
“We thought we could pound the ball inside, and we did that early on — and it was effective,” Johnson said. “There’s still some things to work on. But Alaura continues to be this dominating post presence, and Tia Bass is starting to become that way. And I see Lauren McGraw is on her way to doing the same thing. All of our post players played very well today.”
Taylor added three points and Jenna Kaup matched the team-high total with six rebounds and added three assists.
Amaya Barnes had seven points, Ariana Rinehart had six points and DeArmond added five points for the Wildcats.
“I thought our zone defense was phenomenal and we did a really nice job,” Johnson said. “We didn’t box out to my liking, But that’s an athletic team, they’re quick and long, and we didn’t give them many second-chance opportunities. MaKenna settled down tonight and ran the offense well, Jordan is coming into her own, and all in all we were very pleased.”
Troy faces Trotwood Wednesday before returning home Jan. 21 to host West Carrollton.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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