By Josh Brown
TROY — After a bucket on the game’s opening possession, everything went downhill from there for the Troy boys basketball team.
Undefeated Butler used eight first-quarter turnovers to go on a 12-0 run from there and built a 22-point lead in the second quarter. And though the Trojans battled back and cut the deficit to as little as seven points numerous times in the third quarter, the Aviators finished the game as strong as they began it, pulling away for a 68-42 Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division victory Friday at the Trojan Activities Center.
With the win, Butler improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the GWOC American North, setting up a critical showdown at defending division champion Sidney on Tuesday. Troy, meanwhile, fell to 2-2 and 1-2 in division play before Tuesday’s home matchup against county rival Tippecanoe.
In Troy coach Paul Bremigan’s eyes, Friday’s loss came down to one thing: effort.
“They just played harder than us the first quarter and a half. And before we decided to play hard, we were down 20. That was the bottom line,” he said. “We can’t wait and expect things to happen, can’t wait on things to happen. Until we decide that we’re going to play a little harder … and that doesn’t happen overnight.”
After Jacob Martinez hit Zach Reichelderfer for a basket in the paint off of the opening tip, everything went wrong in a hurry. Braedon Norman hit the first of nine Aviator 3s on the night to put Butler up, and it never looked back. Four steals all led to points for the Aviators, with Bryant Johnson throwing down his second dunk to cap off a 12-0 burst before Troy’s Caillou Monroe hit a 3 to end the run. But the Aviators converted four more turnovers into points before quarter’s end, and the Trojans trailed 24-7 after the first.
“We didn’t take care of the ball very well — and with some people, it’s a recurring thing. And it’s got to stop,” Bremigan said. “We have to treasure the ball more. In the first half, we had 11 (turnovers). And they went to the boards harder. They attacked the glass hard, and we were just soft. We were soft in the first two quarters, and they went after it, got away with everything you can get away with and got the ball. And we were soft.”
Butler’s lead grew to 22 at 31-9 early in the second quarter, and the Aviators led 34-12 before the Trojans finally began to battle back.
Eli Palmer and Cole Brogan hit back-to-back 3s and Reichelderfer scored on a layup, then Chris DeMeo hit a 3 to cut the lead to 11 before a Butler free throw made it 35-23 at halftime. Then Martinez, who sat the entire second quarter in foul trouble, hit two free throws and a layup to kick off the third quarter and cap off a 15-1 run that got the Trojans back to within single digits at 35-27. Martinez then twice hit 3s that got Troy within seven, once at 37-30 and again at 40-33, but Kort Justice answered with a 3 to make it a 10-point game and force a Trojan timeout with 3:15 left in the third.
From there, Butler went on a 15-2 run to extend the lead to 55-35 early in the fourth, and the Aviators pulled away from there.
Martinez scored all of his team-high 13 points in the second half, but no other Trojans reached double figures. Reichelderfer finished with six points, eight rebounds and three blocks, Palmer had six points, DeMeo had five points, Brenden Kinnel had four points, Brogan had three points and four rebounds, Monroe had three points and Brayden Siler had two points.
“Martinez played well,” Bremigan said. “He got in some foul trouble, but he did a nice job for us. We just need to get everyone to commit to playing hard — and that’s not happening right now.”
Three Aviators were in double figures, led by Kort Justice’s game-high 17 points. Norman added 16 points, Michael Kreills had 12 points and eight rebounds, Johnson had seven points and Trey Sanders had five points and seven rebounds. Ryan Wertz, Cooper Justice and Sutton Skapik each scored three points and Max Schega had two points.
“We’ve just got to get everybody that’s on our team to play hard. And if not, then we’ll find somebody that will. That’s the bottom line,” Bremigan said. “When you put that jersey on, it’s a privilege, and you have to treat it like one. I don’t care how good you are, you have to play your butt off all of the time. We’ve got a lot of kids in this program, nine through 12, that play hard. And it’s my job to find five of them.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.