By Luke Severt
For the Troy Daily News
TROY — All season, Troy girls basketball coach Aaron Johnson has been stressing the importance of his team’s execution.
On Wednesday night, everything finally clicked for the Trojans, as they defeated Xenia, 56-22.
“I have been harping all year about our execution, how we have to execute better,” Johnson said. “Today, I think we executed really well, and to me, that was the key for us.”
Makenna Taylor opened the game with a basket for the Trojans, and their offense never looked back. Due to two 3-pointers, six Alaura Holycross points and a 14-0 run to end the half, the Trojans had a commanding 20-6 lead after the first quarter.
“One of the things that we have not done well is start it well,” Johnson said. “Typically, our first quarter has not been the best. I think it starts with the intensity of their warm-up and their mental focus. These girls are hungry. They’re much more mentally focused than they have been, and they have been practicing hard. I think that led to the hot start.”
Xenia could not do anything to slow down the Trojan offense after the strong start, and their lead kept growing. Taylor hit back-to-back 3s with six minutes left in the second quarter to increase the lead to more than 20, and the quarter ended with the score sitting at 32-10 in Troy’s favor. Holycross, Taylor, and Tia Bass all had eight points in the half for the Trojans.
Although Bass had eight points at the half, it took until the third quarter for her to reach her peak performance. She surpassed her first-half point total in the quarter alone, scoring 10 points — including four successful free throws in the same number of attempts. She added two more free throws in the fourth and finished with 20 points. It was the highest-scoring outing the Trojans have gotten this season, and Johnson was enthusiastic about the sophomore’s performance.
“Tia is a presence. She’s a force inside,” he said. “Anyone who has been to our games this year has heard me remind her to attack the basket, and tonight she attacked the basket. I’m hoping she sees that’s what she’s capable of, that’s what she can do on a night-to-night basis. Hopefully this is just the beginning of what you see from Tia Bass from now on.”
The Troy lead proved insurmountable for the Buccaneers, as the game ended in a 34-point Trojan victory. In addition to Bass’s 20 points, Holycross scored 11, Taylor had eight, Dana Wynkoop contributed seven, Erika Innes added five, Jordan Short made a 3 and Taylor Roop scored a bucket.
The team’s 56-point offensive explosion ties their season high, matching the 56 they scored in a win against West Carrollton on Saturday.
“When the girls are patient and they run the offense through, we get some nice, easy looks, and I think that was pretty evident today. Not taking anything away from Xenia, but I told our girls that our keys to victory were not about the opponent, but how we execute and how we play as a team,” Johnson said. “Defensively we played hard, we tried to limit them to one shot — and for the most part, we did that. We rebounded well, and it was just nice to see everything come together tonight.”
Xenia was led by Trinity Morton-Nooks, who ranks 10th in the Greater Western Ohio Conference with 13 points per game. She contributed 15 for the Buccaneers, including three 3s, but nobody else scored more than three points for the team, and only three other Xenia players got on the board. The Trojans held them to a dismal 8 of 41 shooting night from the field while forcing 15 turnovers and dominating the glass.
With the win, Troy improves to an even 8-8 on the year and 6-4 in GWOC American North Division play. Xenia falls to 2-13, and 1-9 against GWOC American South opponents.
Next, the Trojans will travel to play Greenville, a team that currently holds a one-game lead over them in GWOC American North standings. They will look to avenge a seven-point loss against the Green Wave in early December and move into a tie for third place in league standings on Saturday.