By Josh Brown
PIQUA — Troy coach Paul Bremigan couldn’t recall many instances of Piqua missing 3-point shots Friday night.
“It seemed like every time we left them open — or even when we were on them — they made a 3,” Bremigan said. “I don’t remember them missing that many.”
That’s not saying his memory is bad, either — far from it. The Indians simply didn’t miss.
Piqua (9-6, 3-2 Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division) hit 11 3-pointers Friday night — five of them coming in the decisive third quarter — shooting better than 50 percent from beyond the arc in a 65-51 victory over the rival Troy Trojans (4-10, 1-4 GWOC North) at Garbry Gymnasium.
The loss was the fourth straight for the depleted Trojans, who have been dealing with injuries and unavailable players for weeks. And though Troy was in control early in the game, taking a four-point lead at 15-11 after an 11-1 run, foul trouble for the Trojans’ two starting post players forced the team to go away from the inside-out game that had put it in front.
“We’ve been a little strapped here, and we just can’t have guys getting in foul trouble. But it’s been a problem all year,” Bremigan said. “I don’t have an answer for it. But we want our bigs to play physical, and I see it on both ends — and we’re not getting other people in foul trouble.
“Sometimes it’s a height thing, I think, but we teach our players that contact is contact. It may look different when a kid is 4-foot-2 or 7-2, but we teach our players that, no matter what size they are, if they take the ball strong to the rim and get hit, it’s a foul. They don’t get it, they get frustrated, and it just gets worse.”
But even when they were on the court, Mechia Linton and Austin Funderburg struggled to keep Piqua’s Nate Monnin off the glass.
Monnin had a game-high 16 rebounds to go with his 13 points — one of four Indians that were in double figures on the night.
“Early on, we got pushed around on the boards quite a bit,” Bremigan said. “I thought we did a little better job rebounding as the game went on, but all the balls that got tipped out, they got to first. They won the hustle plays.”
Troy led 15-11 early in the second quarter after a bucket inside by Funderburg, but Monnin converted a three-point play and Colton Bachman finished a fast break to give the Indians a 16-15 lead — the beginnings of a 13-0 run by Piqua. Linton went to the bench with three fouls with 6:08 left in the second and the Indians began working the ball inside-out themselves. Brad Hohlbein and Ben Schmiesing hit back-to-back 3s to make it 24-15 before a Funderburg putback finally ended the run.
Keenan Kinnel hit a 3, Zion Taylor hit a free throw and Romello Yaqub hit a jumper to get Troy back to within one at 24-23 late in the second, but Bachman buried a 3 at the buzzer to give the Indians a four-point cushion heading into the break.
But then Piqua went 5 for 9 from 3-point range in the third quarter, with four different players knocking at least one down. Derrick Gullett hit a pair, and Bachman, Schmiesing and Hohlbein each hit one, and the Indians outscored the Trojans 23-15 in the quarter to take a 50-38 lead into the fourth.
“We did hit 3s,” Piqua coach Heath Butler said. “But it starts with getting the ball inside for some easy shots and working inside-out. Once they see a couple shots go in, they shoot with confidence.”
Twice in the final quarter, Ryan McClurg hit 3s to get Troy back to within nine, but that was the closest the Trojans would get. But one play summed up the game better than any other — with Troy trailing 55-46 after a McClurg 3, Estevan Stafford knocked the ball loose on defense, diving to the floor after it. But Gullett got to it first, dished to Hohlbein from his back, and Hohlbein found Monnin open for a 3 to make it a 12-point game again with 4:00 remaining — and the Indians closed the game out from there.
“That’s how plays like that always end,” Bremigan said. “If you don’t get to the loose ball first, if you don’t win the scramble play, it leads to a basket. But it works both ways, too. Those plays have gone our way before. They just didn’t tonight.”
Bachman finished with a game-high 22 points, hitting four of the Indians’ 11 3s. Monnin had 13 points, Hohlbein and Schmiesing each had 12 and Gullett scored six — with each of them hitting at least one 3.
“That’s what makes this a dangerous team — we have a lot of guys who can hit them,” Butler said. “You can’t just take Colton away. I thought Troy did as good a job of that as anybody has all year.”
Yaqub and Kinnel each scored 13 points to lead the Trojans, with Yaqub adding three assists and three steals. Linton had eight points and six rebounds, McClurg had eight points and four rebounds and Funderburg had four points and four rebounds.
The Trojans will look to end their skid Tuesday at home against Springboro, the beginning of a three-game homestand next week that will end with Greenville Friday and Miami East Saturday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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