By Josh Brown
TROY — In the end, Troy boys basketball coach Paul Bremigan felt worst for his two seniors, Zach Reichelderfer and Brenden Kinnel.
“I feel bad — I’ve known them for three years, and they’ve done a great job for us,” he said. “It stinks when you lose on you Senior Night, but that’s why you strap ‘em on and play.”
Facing archrival Piqua at home in the regular season finale, the Trojans struggled to hit shots or find any kind of rhythm in the first half, falling behind by as many as 13 before closing the gap to only one with a 12-0 third-quarter run — and even having a chance to retake the lead with the ball. But the Indians got a clutch stop that turned into a fast-break bucket by Qurri Tucker, a common occurrence on the night, and rebuilt the lead to help put away a 49-42 victory at Troy Friday night.
Piqua improved to 10-12 overall with the win and 7-8 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division, tied with both Troy and Tippecanoe behind 12-3 co-champions Butler and Sidney. It was also the third win in the last four games for the Indians.
“We’ve just really come together as a team over the last few weeks,” Piqua coach Steve Grasso said. “We’ve battled through some tough times. We were as many as four games under .500, but we’ve always battled. Our goal was to get to a 10-win season and to get to around third in the division, which I think we tied for tonight, which is awesome. I’ve got to credit our seniors for the leadership and just showing up to play every night.”
For the Trojans, who finished the regular season 9-13 and 7-8 in the GWOC American North, it was the fifth loss in their last six games. But Bremigan didn’t think the fact that it was Senior Night or the fact that they were facing Piqua in an always-emotional matchup led to the Trojans’ flat start.
“We Friday, Saturday, Tuesday, Friday — we’ve played four games in eight days,” Bremigan said. “If you’re in that situation, and I’ve been in that situation before, you want to play your rival in that fourth game. Because you’re going to be all geeked up — I thought we were ready. I thought we battled. Rebounding just hurt us tonight.
“When you shoot 5 for 23 in the first half and don’t have any rebounds in the second quarter — our stat people had us for zero rebounds in the second quarter — when you miss 18 shots and that happens, you’d think one of them would accidentally fall in your lap.”
Piqua’s Ben Schmiesing was a big part of that, too. He had eight rebounds at halftime and a game-high 17 of them by night’s end as Piqua outrebounded Troy 34-32 in the game.
“He’s an animal,” Grasso said. “He doesn’t come out of the game, and at the end of the game tonight with one minute left, he took a charge. That tells you what type of guy he is. He’s going to do anything for his team.”
Even a buzzer-beating 3 by Caillou Monroe to end the first quarter couldn’t get Troy going in the first half, though, with Piqua holding an 11-7 lead after one and leading by as many as 13 at 21-8 in the second quarter. Brayden Siler and Reichelderfer both hit shots to cut the lead to nine, but Mick Karn scored on a drive to make it 23-12 Indians at the break.
“We preach to score or get fouled inside,” Bremigan said. “But we were 10 for 20 from the foul line. We missed three front ends. It just didn’t seem like we had a whole lot of energy in the first half. We didn’t go to the boards like we’re supposed to. We defended alright, held them to 25 points in the first half.
“You can get some momentum from the free throw line if you do go to the line and make two. But if you work your butt off to get a shot, you miss the shot and then you miss two foul shots, it’s just like a turnover. And that’s kind of what happened a few times, and sometimes that just sucks the life out of you.”
But after a Tucker fast break to start the second half that made it a 13-point game again, the Trojans did get some momentum from the line as Reichelderfer hit one, then Troy missed a pair but Kinnel got the offensive rebound and hit a pair to make it a 10-point game at 25-15. Cole Brogan then hit a free throw, Reichelderfer hit a pair of free throws and Jacob Martinez tipped in Troy’s first field goal of the third quarter to make it 25-20. Reichelderfer then scored inside, Piqua missed a pair of free throws and Martinez scored inside to cut the lead to 25-24 with 3:30 left in the third.
After an Indian turnover, their fifth of the quarter, the Trojans had a chance to take the lead, but Schmiesing was able to clean up a Troy miss inside and get it to Tucker for a fast-break finish to end the run, then Schmiesing scored on a putback himself to make it 29-24 after three.
Piqua got the lead up to 10 at 36-26 in the fourth quarter, and the closest Troy got from there was six at 43-37 after a Reichelderfer drive with 1:31 to go. But Tucker answered by beating the defense back for a layup to make it an eight-point game and Schmiesing drew a charge to wipe out another Trojan opportunity, and the Indians held on from there.
Tucker had 20 points to lead all scorers and Karn added 10 points off the bench for Piqua. Schmiesing had eight points to go with his 17 rebounds, Devon Brown had seven points and five rebounds and Trey Richmond and Hayden Schrubb each had two points.
“Tucker’s been a breakout player this year,” Grasso said. “He’s been one of our most consistent and hard-working players, and when you combine that hard work ethic with that speed and skill, and he’s a special player for us.”
Martinez led the Trojans with 13 points — 11 in the second half — and eight rebounds, Reichelderfer added 12 points and six rebounds and Kinnel had one of his best games of the season with nine points and eight rebounds. Monroe added five points and five rebounds, Siler had two points and Brogan had one.
“Brenden played pretty well,” Bremigan said. “I thought he had some energy that I wish a lot of other guys would have had.”
Both teams open Division I sectional tournament play on Feb. 23 at Trotwood, with Piqua facing Springboro at 5:30 p.m. and Troy taking on division foe Sidney for a third time this season in the 7 p.m. game.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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