By Josh Brown
TROY — When he saw the pass sail over Jenna Kaup’s head, with her only able to leap up and get one hand on it to slow it down slightly, Troy girls basketball coach Nathan Kopp assumed Trotwood’s aggressive defense had forced another turnover.
But a funny thing happened.
“We ran a shallow cut and Jenna curled, but the pass went over her head and looked like it was going out of bounds,” he said. “I turned to say something to the girls — but then I heard them all yelling. I turned around, and Jenna had gone after the ball, gone diving out of bounds and saved it to Kayla (Niswonger). Really, just, what a play right there.
“That one play shows the kind of kids we have. It signifies what these kids are willing to do to get a win.”
And though Troy — which was clinging to a six-point lead late in the third quarter at the time — only got one point out of the play, it truly did show just what the Trojan players are willing to do even for one lone point. And that kind of effort put the team in the right places all night long against Trotwood as Troy avenged a loss earlier this season with a 34-26 victory Wednesday night at the Trojan Activities Center.
The win — which made Troy 9-9 on the season and 5-3 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division — was also the 100th in Kopp’s career, combining his stints at Troy and previously Milton-Union.
“I hadn’t even thought of it. Time flies,” Kopp said. “Tonight’s win I guess best sums up the 100 wins — kids fighting for a team and a goal to find success, not always having the most talent but investing their time to compete. It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of time invested, and I’ve had the ability to work with some great young people and great assistants through the years. It’s been fun, and I wouldn’t change anything.”
Wednesday’s win also came against a Trotwood team (9-10, 5-2 GWOC North) that had knocked off the Trojans 39-28 on the road three short weeks ago.
“I think the difference was that we limited them to one chance, for the most part,” Kopp said. “When they missed shots, we didn’t give them easy putbacks. The girls fought hard and rebounded the basketball when they needed to.”
And while the Trojans did have a similar offensive performance to the first meeting, going 6 for 35 from the field, they constantly found ways to get to the free throw line, beating the Rams to spots on defense, winning all the hustle and scramble plays and forcing Trotwood to commit fouls — particularly in the fourth quarter.
Troy went 20 for 42 from the free throw line in the game, including 17 for 36 in the second half. The Trojans did not connect on any field goals in the final quarter, but they went 10 for 22 from the line, consistently grabbing offensive rebounds just before Ram players got there and getting fouled in the hectic fight for the ball.
“We took 42 free throws tonight,” Kopp said. “We knew they were going to pressure us, so we had to look for ways to attack. Going 20 for 42 is not good, but at this point that doesn’t matter. We were a little better than the first time, when we went 13 for 34, and we did enough to get the win.”
Bailey Hess and Niswonger were the biggest part of that on the night. Hess led the Trojans with nine points, five rebounds and five steals and Niswonger had seven points and a team-high six rebounds — all in the second half. Both went 7 for 14 from the free throw line in the game.
Troy held a slim 13-12 lead at halftime after Sierra Besecker and Bailey Dornbusch both hit 3s in the second quarter. Trotwood cut the lead to one, and Besecker couldn’t get the roll on a buzzer-beating 3-point attempt. But the Trojans took control for good in the third, with Hess scoring a layup and Niswonger scoring four straight points on free throws — including one off of Kaup’s hustle play — to give the Trojans a seven-point lead. Hess was then fouled on a 3-point attempt and made two of the free throws to give Troy its biggest lead of the game at 24-15 before Nia Martin somehow chucked in a desperation runner at the buzzer to make it a seven-point game going into the fourth.
Trotwood got as close as five in the final minute at 31-26, but the Troy defense held tough and the Trojans made enough free throws to keep it out of reach.
Besecker added six points, going 3 for 6 from the line, Maddy Taylor had five points and was the only Troy player to connect on two field goals, Kiyha Adkins and Dornbusch each had three points and Alaura Holycross had one point.
Martin led all scorers with 11 points for the Rams, who the Trojan defense held to 11 for 55 (20 percent) from the field. Mercedes Woodward added six points and nine rebounds and Essence Thornton and Kellah Flucas each had four as the Rams were forced to take bad shot after bad shot by the stingy Troy ‘D.’
“Our defense was just unbelievable,” Kopp said. “Every shot they made was practically thrown in. They banked in shots, threw up floaters — and some of those are going to go in. But we told the girls that we just had to stick to what we were doing. For the most part, we limited them to only one shot per trip, and that was the key.
“Our number tonight (to hold the opposition under) was 36, and we held them to 26. Which, I’m glad we did, because that wouldn’t have been enough. I’m proud of all the girls. Kayla coming off the bench, Maddy getting rebounds — this was a great team effort with all 11 kids contributing.”
Troy began the season on a four-game losing streak but has since gone 9-5, including four straight wins. The Trojans will put that streak on the line — and look for some more payback — at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon when they host GWOC North rival Butler for Senior Night.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.