By Josh Brown
TROY — Every time Butler pulled away from Troy, the Trojans fought right back.
“In the past, we’d get down by seven and then things would snowball,” Troy girls basketball coach Nathan Kopp said. “And suddenly, we’d find ourselves down by twice that. But we didn’t let that happen today.”
But the Aviators made enough plays in the game’s final minutes to hold a three-point lead, and Troy’s desperation 3-point attempt in the closing second was off the mark as Butler (12-7, 5-3 Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division) was able to hang on for a 38-35 victory over the Trojans on Senior Night Saturday at the Trojan Activities Center.
It was the second close loss to the Aviators this season for the Trojans (9-10, 5-4 GWOC North). On Jan. 9, Troy lost at Butler 44-36 despite making 8 3-pointers. And on Saturday, the Trojans had one of their best shooting days — from both the field and the free throw line, going 12-28 (43 percent) from the field and 8 for 13 (62 percent) from the line.
“It’s tough,” Kopp said. “But this was just a game between two evenly-matched teams. I think when we watch the film, we’ll find that we just made one or two more mistakes than they did, or they made one or two fewer mistakes than we did.”
Before the game, Troy honored its six seniors: Sierra Besecker, Maddy Taylor, Bailey Dornbusch, Kayla Niswonger, Alexis Otstot and Taylor Stookey. And Besecker made the most of the day, scoring a career-high 17 points to lead the Trojans — including Troy’s first 13 points of the game.
“To have six seniors that have stuck through it for four years, I’m so proud of these girls,” Kopp said. “They all conduct themselves the way you’d want your girls to, and they’ve all got bright futures. We told the seniors that the game didn’t end the way they wanted it to, but it was a good game.
“Sierra’s just that kind of kid. She lives for big games, and she loves that adrenaline. She went 6 for 8 from the field and had 13 in the first half and kept us in the game, and Maddy had 12 rebounds in the game and played well, too. All the girls did.”
Shelby Moses hit a 3 to kick the game off, but Besecker hit back-to-back 3s to give Troy the lead. Two Abby Grooms free throws and another 3 by Moses put Butler on top, but a layup by Besecker tied the score 8-8 to end the first quarter — which would become a trend in the second and third, as well.
Butler scored the first five points of the second to go up 13-8, but a three-point play and steal-and-layup by Besecker tied the score again. Kayla Niswonger hit a pair of free throws and Alaura Holycross hit a short jumper to give Troy a four-point lead, but the Aviators evened it up. Holycross hit a putback to give the lead back to Troy, but a layup in transition by Tyree Fletcher tied the score at 19-19 at the half.
The Trojans began the second half slow, going 1 for 6 from the field and turning the ball over four times in the first six minutes of the third to fall behind 28-21. But Holycross hit a 3 to keep the Trojans alive, and freshman Kiyha Adkins stole the ball twice and took it in for easy layups both times to tie the score at 28-28 after three.
“We switched to a 1-3-1, and Kiyha is like the Energizer Bunny,” Kopp said. “She got us back into it with her quickness.”
Both teams battled on defense in the fourth, with Butler finally gaining a slim three-point advantage at 33-30 after a bucket inside by Grooms with 2:39 to play. Besecker answered with a drive to cut it to one again, but Olivia Schoenherr hit a pair of free throws to make it 35-32 with 2:05 to go.
The Trojans missed a pair of free throws with 50 seconds left and Keonni Rakestraw hit one to make it a two-possession game with 42.3 seconds left. Holycross hit a free throw to get the Trojans to with 36-33, then Butler missed the front end of a one-and-one to give Troy the ball. But the Aviators fouled with 7.4 seconds remaining instead of allowing Troy to take a potentially game-tying 3-point attempt, and Besecker hit both free throws to make it a one-point game.
Moses hit two free throws with seven seconds remaining, and Troy missed a desperation 3 at the buzzer — but Otstot got the rebound and was fouled on a shot, but the officials discussed it and decided that happened after the buzzer, and the game was over.
“We missed a couple free throws in the last minute, but then we turned around and made some to keep it close,” Kopp said. “They made their free throws down the stretch. Moses is a really good free throw shooter, and they did a good job of getting the ball into her hands.
“If Alexis gets those free throws, makes the first and misses the second, who knows what could have happened? But it is what it is.”
After Sunday’s sectional tournament draw, Troy finishes GWOC North play Wednesday at undefeated Sidney, faces Tippecanoe at Hobart Arena Feb. 6 and finishes the regular season at Springboro Feb. 10.
“There’s three games left now, we’re 9-10 and will likely get a middle-range seed,” Kopp said. “We’ll likely get the chance to play someone like a Butler, a game where hopefully we can compete and have a chance to win.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.