By Josh Brown
TROY — The Troy girls basketball team couldn’t have started Wednesday’s Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division opener better.
And while, by the end of the night, things turned to disappointment, Troy coach Aaron Johnson knows that it was only the beginning.
“This time, we came out and played really well in the first quarter … and then took the last three off,” he said. “But by no means is this the end.”
Troy (2-1, 0-1 GWOC American North) connected on its first six shots from the field and used a 10-0 run to jump out to a big lead against visiting Greenville, but the Green Wave remained within striking distance at halftime and then used 17 second-half Trojan turnovers to take charge and hold on for a 44-37 win Wednesday at the Trojan Activities Center.
The Trojans played without leading scorer Alaura Holycross, but sophomore Tia Bass had a massive game. She scored 10 of her game-high 17 points in the first quarter, going 5 for 5 from the field in the game’s first four minutes as the Trojans hit their first six shots, led by as many as eight at 10-2 and jumped out to a 12-5 lead before finally missing a shot. MaKenna Taylor added a steal-and-layup, Lauren McGraw hit a jumper and Jordan Short drove to the basket at quarter’s end to put Troy up 16-10 after one quarter.
But things slowly unraveled from there. Greenville (3-1, 1-0 GWOC American North) outscored Troy 6-3 in a slow-paced second quarter to go into halftime down only 19-16, then the Wave forced 10 Trojan turnovers in the third quarter alone and took a 26-23 lead heading into the fourth as Bass had to sit most of those two quarters in foul trouble.
“Our gameplan was to establish inside, establish Tia and dominate inside, and I think we did that,” Johnson said. “They hit a couple 3s that kept it a little closer than we would’ve liked it to have been, but to come out and score 16 in that first quarter and go 6 for 6 (from the field), that was a great start. And slowly, the wheels fell off a bit.
“Our ability to execute slowly diminished, and with that, we scored three points in the second quarter. We have to play well and together as a team. We need all five people to be in sync to have success, and we didn’t have that in the second quarter.”
Saki Nakamura gave Greenville the lead for good by following a Troy turnover with a drive that made the score 21-20 with 4:18 left in the third, then Payton Brandenburg scored inside after another turnover to give the Wave some breathing room. Valena Robinson scored a bucket on the fast break to keep Troy within one, but Brandenburg cashed in a third-chance putback to make it 26-23 going into the final quarter.
Even with Bass back on the floor in the fourth, though, the Wave still picked Troy’s guards pockets with regularity, forcing seven more turnovers and building a lead as big as 12 points at 40-28 with roughly two minutes to play. Short banked in a 3 and then hit three free throws, all in the game’s final 10 seconds, but by then it was just too late.
“We try to preach ‘be quick, but don’t hurry.’ And I think we were trying to hurry,” Johnson said. “I think we were trying to make plays. Girls wanted to get the ball, go down and make a play, and we got a little out of control. It’s early in the season, and you get a little bit of that, but that was more than we expected to see. We just played out of control.
“We didn’t execute. When it comes down to it, we didn’t execute our gameplan, we didn’t execute our offense — and we didn’t execute defensively, to be honest with you. They scored on way too many dribble drives and got way too many offensive rebounds.”
Bass finished off a double-double with 10 rebounds to go with her 17 points, and Short added 10 points. Kiyha Adkins, Robinson, McGraw and Taylor each had two points, Erika Innes had four assists and Laura Borchers had five rebounds.
“Tia did a nice job offensively,” Johnson said. “I thought Laura Borchers, starting her first varsity game, she does so many things that you’re not going to see in the scorebook and did a great job for us tonight. Jordan always plays hard, and she and Erika made some great passes to Tia early on.”
Morgan Gilbert led Greenville with 12 points and five steals, going 5 for 10 from the free throw line in the fourth to ice the game. Haleigh Mayo added nine points and five rebounds, Nakamura added six points and three assists and Brandenburg had six points.
Troy’s two-game homestand concludes Saturday when the Trojans host another GWOC American North rival, Sidney.
“We have to fine tune some things,” Johnson said. “But by no means is this the end. By no means are these things not repairable. The girls just need to trust in the system. I appreciate that they’re trying to make plays, but they need to trust in the system and trust in each other, and I think good things will happen if we do that.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.