By Josh Brown
TROY — The Troy girls basketball team found itself in a position it had only been in one other time this season — and that first time, things didn’t go well.
Wednesday night, though, the Trojans finished.
Troy (4-3, 2-3 Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division) built a commanding lead by halftime and, unlike the last time it held a comfortable advantage in a game, continued to widen the gap, pulling away for a 38-23 victory over rival Piqua Wednesday at the Trojan Activities Center.
Two weeks ago before Wednesday’s game, the Trojans leapt out to a 10-point lead against division rival Greenville — only to see it evaporate in a 44-37 loss. According to Troy coach Aaron Johnson, they weren’t about to let that happen again.
“We jumped out on Greenville 12-2 early, and we relaxed,” he said. “Before tonight’s game, we talked about getting up big but not relaxing, pouring it on more, putting more pressure on. Not being satisfied just being up by six or eight or 10, but continuing to execute and play hard.
“I thought this was the first time the girls stayed with the gameplan, stayed in system, ran the offense through, and I think it paid off for us tonight.”
Troy also knew that if it wanted to improve its chances of winning, it had to stop Lily Stewart, who hit seven 3-pointers in a narrow 39-37 Trojan win last season. And while Stewart did lead the Indians (3-5, 1-4 GWOC American North) in the game, she was held to only three 3s for nine total points as Piqua went 10 for 33 (30.3 percent) from the field compared to Troy’s 18 for 45 (40 percent).
“We wanted to key on Stewart. Last time she was in this gym, she had 23 points,” Johnson said. “We watched that videotape yesterday maybe 27 times, and that was one of the things, we didn’t want her to have that opportunity. If she was going to shoot, we wanted to be in her face. And I thought we executed that really well.
“Piqua was just off tonight shooting-wise. They had some great looks at the basket, and we weren’t great defensively. It was just one of those nights where their shots weren’t falling, and we were able to take advantage of that.”
Most of Piqua’s success came in the first quarter, as a jumper by Kelsey Bachman fell in the final minute to give the Indians a 9-8 lead after one. But Dana Wynkoop hit a jumper and Tia Bass scored a putback to put Troy up 12-9, and after a jumper by Lauren Williams cut the lead to one, the Indians didn’t score again the rest of the half. A 3 by MaKenna Taylor and a pair of buckets in the paint by Alaura Holycross, meanwhile, put Troy up 19-11 at the break, and the Trojans never looked back.
Troy’s interior presence of Bass and Holycross, as well as Lauren McGraw off the bench, was simply too much for the Indians to handle on the night. Bass finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, Holycross added 10 points and eight rebounds and McGraw had eight points and six rebounds as Troy outrebounded Piqua 27-11 on the night, with 10 of its 19 first-half points coming on second-chance putbacks.
“ We felt we had a size advantage inside, and that was something we wanted to exploit tonight,” Johnson said. “We really wanted to pound the ball inside, and I thought we did a decent job of getting the ball into the post. We felt we could crash the boards offensively and get some offensive rebounds. In that first half, Alaura did a good job of hitting the boards. We ran some things to get her and Tia started, and I thought they did well with that.
“It was nice to see MaKenna hit that 3 in the second quarter to kind of get us going, and that 11-2 spurt in the second quarter really got us going. We were able to put a little press together, too, and get some turnovers and easy buckets that way. But it was nice to see the guards running the offense through and executing the offense to get the ball inside.”
Taylor finished with three points, Valena Robinson had two points and two assists and Wynkoop had two points, while Kiyha Adkins and Jordan Short each added three assists.
After Stewart’s nine points, Williams had six points and a team-high four rebounds, while Bachman and Kelsey Magoteaux each had four points.
Troy led by as many as 12 in the third quarter before a Stewart 3 cut it to 25-19 heading into the fourth, but the Trojans blew that lead out to as big as 22 points at 38-18 with a minute left in the game.
“I liked the second quarter and how we responded towards the end of the third quarter, and I loved the fourth quarter,” Johnson said. “It was good to see them actually execute — and once we started executing, it was tough to stop us.”
Troy hosts Miami East Saturday, while Piqua is off until Dec. 28 when it travels to Graham.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.