By Josh Brown
TROY — The play didn’t necessarily go exactly the way the Troy boys basketball team drew it up.
With 11 seconds remaining in a tie game, things rarely do.
But while Brenden Kinnel, who saw an opening and took it, narrowly missed his layup attempt, Zach Reichelderfer — the intended recipient of the ball in the first place — was in perfect position to put back the miss and give Troy the lead with 3.3 seconds remaining, and Tippecanoe’s last-second 3-point attempt fell short as the Trojans captured a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the division rival Red Devils, 54-52 Tuesday at the Trojan Activities Center.
“It was intended to get me the ball so I could look for the back cut. But we kind of improvised on that,” Reichelderfer said. “Since we saw the wing was open, Brenden dribbled down the lane and got a really good look at a layup. And coach (Paul Bremigan) always preaches rebounding, both offensively and defensively, and that’s what I did. I got that putback, and it was crazy.”
The win put the Trojans back above the .500 mark at 3-2 overall and 2-2 in Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division play, snapping a brief two-game losing streak to last year’s division champion, Sidney, and its current leader, undefeated Butler.
“Two of our three wins have been within two points. For a young team, that’s good to see,” Bremigan said. “We’ve won a couple close games early in the season, and that’s good to see for us. It gives us some confidence going into any close games we have. We know we’ve made plays when we had to. We did a nice job executing there at the end, and I thought we did a nice job defensively in the fourth quarter. We held them to 11 points, outscored them 20-11. That’s one of the best quarters we’ve played all year — and it came at the right time.”
Tippecanoe, meanwhile, fell to 3-2 overall and 2-2 in GWOC American North play. The Devils have also been battle tested early in the season, too, playing only one game so far that was decided by more than 10 points.
“I hope (we’re battled-tested),” Tippecanoe coach Adam Toohey said. “We do a lot of situational stuff in practice, and that’s our first game scenario, where we are down to the wire. I thought our guys rose to the occasion — but we missed an opportunity to box out and they did their job and got it and stuck it back in.”
The Devils maintained control throughout the game, leading 19-15 after one quarter and then, after Troy took a 21-19 lead early in the second, going on a seven-point run to regain control, take a 28-25 lead into halftime and eventually widen that gap to 41-34 heading into the fourth. And Tippecanoe did it in atypical fashion, hitting its first 16 free throw attempts in the game and going 19 for 20 on the night from the line — somewhere the Devils have struggled this season, averaging a mere 55 percent entering Tuesday’s play.
“Rebounding and free throws win you close games or keep you in them,” Toohey said. “We’ve been trying a new approach at practice with it after we started off not shooting so well. I guess (we may stick with it).”
“If you can beat when they’re doing that, then that’s a good win,” Bremigan said of Tippecanoe’s free throw shooting.
The fourth quarter, though, belonged to Troy.
After a Cade Gingrick bucket gave the Devils a 45-41 lead midway through, a blocked shot by Reichelderfer led to a Jacob Martinez fast break layup, then a pair of free throws by Kinnel tied the score with three minutes to play. Ben Sauls hit a free throw to put Tippecanoe back up, but a 3 by Reichelderfer gave Troy its first lead since the second quarter at 48-46. Gingrich tied the score with a pair of free throws, but Reichelderfer drove and kicked out to Kinnel for a 3 to make it 51-48 Troy with 2:25 left.
A putback by Gingrich cut the lead to one with less than a minute left, but a free throw by Kinnel gave Troy a 52-50 lead with 30 seconds on the clock. Josh Wildermuth sank a pair of free throws with 19.1 seconds left to tie the score, and Troy called timeout with 11 seconds remaining to set up one last play.
“We had something we wanted to run at the end,” Bremigan said. “It didn’t exactly … the set that we run, what Brenden did at the end, was open. Ideally, we wanted to get him or Zach the ball, and Brenden saw the opening and took it to the basket. We wanted to score off the in-bounds and give us time to get the offensive rebound.”
That’s exactly how it went, too, as Reichelderfer scored on a putback to give Troy the lead with 3.3 seconds left. Tippecanoe had one last chance, but a half-court heave came up short, and the Trojans celebrated.
“We came into the game thinking it’d be a hard game,” Reichelderfer said. “They’re a really good team. We were down in the first quarter, and the second, and the third, and the fourth quarter. So getting that putback — especially against Tipp, a rivalry game with them coming into the GWOC — it made me and my teammates feel even better about it. But any game-winner feels good.”
Reichelderfer led the Trojans with a game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds — with the game-winner also sealing his second double-double of the year. Martinez added nine points and four rebounds, Kinnel had six points and four rebounds, Adam Gates had four points and seven rebounds, Brayden Siler had four points, Cole Brogan had two points and 10 assists and Caillou Monroe had two points.
Caiden Smith had 18 points to lead the Red Devils, going 9 for 9 from the free throw line on his own. Gingrich added 17 points, Sauls had eight points, Wildermuth had seven points and Noah Bledsoe had two points and five rebounds.
“We really wanted this one,” Toohey said. “Reichelderfer played great for them. They (Troy) went big, and it was hard to keep them off the boards. But it was a hard-fought game. Those guys hung around and battled back, and they never quit at all.”
The Trojans will play in Xenia’s Benner Fieldhouse Classic Friday and Saturday, kicking things off against the host Buccaneers in Friday’s late game. The Devils, meanwhile, have a tough weekend ahead, at division-leading Butler Friday and the Versailles Saturday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.