By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy boys basketball coach Paul Bremigan, after 30-plus years of coaching high school basketball, knows how these things usually work.
“We told the kids that one of the hardest things to do is to hold a lead like that against a team like that at the half,” the veteran coach, in his first year with the Trojans, said, referring to his team’s 18-point halftime lead on Miami East — the No. 3 team in the state in Division III. “We’ve seen how explosive they can be. They’re a good team.”
He also got his first lesson on the Troy-Miami East rivalry — expect the unexpected.
Ryan McClurg hit five first-half 3s and finished with a career-high 22 points, four Trojans finished in double digits and the defense held those explosive Vikings in check, fending off a nine-point run early in the third and never allowing Miami East to get within 10 points in the second half in a stunning 71-58 victory Saturday night at the Trojan Activities Center.
The win makes Troy 5-12 on the season and snaps a six-game losing streak, while it was only Miami East’s second of the year, snapping an eight-game winning streak since a loss to Chaminade Julienne and making the Vikings 15-2. But it was also the Trojans’ seventh consecutive victory over the Vikings, with Miami East’s last win against Troy coming on Feb. 7, 2009.
“Our kids, they told me throw the records out with this one,” Bremigan said. “It is a county rivalry. We had our issues there in the second half, but we made plays and executed on defense when we had to.”
“You’ve got to give Troy a lot of credit. They really moved the ball well and shot the ball well,” Miami East coach Allen Mack said. “They were aggressive and physical, and it took us out of our game in the first half. They built a big halftime lead, and by the time we got going in the second half, it was too little, too late.”
McClurg shot the ball exceptionally well for the Trojans, who were 23 for 45 from the field as a team. Two of his 3s came in the first quarter and Mechia Linton was 5 for 5 from the line as Troy jumped out to a 15-4 lead, but the Vikings rallied to cut it to three at 19-16 Troy at the end of one. A jumper by Ryan Haney cut the Troy lead to one on the first play of the second quarter — but with the score 21-20, the Trojans went on a 12-0 run, including two 3s and a jumper by McClurg, to make it a 33-20 game.
“I just came out, hit a couple shots, got on a roll and my teammates got me the ball,” McClurg said. “We ran our offense, didn’t force any shots.”
“We did shoot it well,” Bremigan said. “They (Miami East) play a very good zone. Their kids have been playing that zone for who knows how long, and they’re very good at reading your players and knowing where the ball is going. But we spread the ball out well, got it in to our bigs, Romello (Yaqub) did a good job at the point — and that all freed up Ryan for some shots.”
“McClurg shot the ball well for them. He hit six 3s in the game, and they hit nine as a team,” Mack said. “They moved the ball well and made plays when they had to.”
McClurg added one more 3 and had 18 points by halftime, helping stake Troy out to a 43-25 lead. Miami East cut that lead to 45-35 early in the third, though, with Brandon Mack hitting a 3 and Braxton Donaldson and Haney hitting jumpers to key a 9-0 run. But McClurg drew the defense’s attention and dished to Zion Taylor for a 3 to end the run, and Zach Reichelderfer hit a 3 at the buzzer to five Troy a 54-40 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
And while the Vikings forced nine second-half turnovers, the closest they could get was 11 at 60-49 after a steal by Haney led to a Damien Mackesy layup. Linton answered that with a three-point play and Yaqub hit a floater in the lane to give the Trojans a 65-50 lead with less than three minutes to go, and the closest the Vikings got after that was 13.
In the game’s final two minutes with East down 67-54, a Viking player was ejected during a battle on the floor over a loose ball, a play that the team will have to deal with the fallout of moving forward.
“It was a scramble play on the floor for a loose ball, and to come out of that with a flagrant foul call, I’ve never seen that in 29 years,” Mack said. “Obviously we’ll have to deal with the consequences of that, as he’s now out for two games. We certainly want Troy to know that there was no intent there. He said he was rolling over, tied up on the floor, out of control. He’s a good kid, a National Honor Society kid. As a team, we’ll need to regroup in practice and refocus on our team goals.”
Yaqub finished with 18 points and five assists to complement McClurg’s 22-point effort, Linton had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and Reichelderfer finished with 11 points off the bench. Taylor added three, Austin Persinger and Austin Funderburg each added two and Brenden Kinnel had one.
Mackesy finished with 18 points — 10 in the second half after fighting through foul trouble in the first — and seven rebounds and Haney finished with 11 points, four assists and three steals. Brandon Mack added eight points, hitting two of the Vikings’ four 3s, Logan West scored seven, Donaldson finished with six off the bench, Michael Werling scored five and Kley Karadak had three.
“Damien got going in the second half, Ryan played well and Brandon hit some shots,” Mack said. “They did a nice job with their defense and were very disruptive. We knew coming in that Troy had a good team and had a tough loss last night to one of their league leaders (63-58 to Greenville). It’s just one of those experiences that we’ve got to take as we finish the regular season and become better because of it.”
For Bremigan, it was exactly what he wanted to see out of his team.
“I don’t know that last night’s loss necessarily took a lot out of us. We just really wanted to see some consistency,” he said. “We played well last night, and we’ve done that before — played some good games and then laid some eggs the next day. We told the kids last night that we couldn’t have any eggs today. Miami East is too good a team. We’re starting to play well together.”
And to end the skid against a quality team like that?
“It feels pretty good,” McClurg said. “We’re just trying to get back on track. We came out, played hard and tried to play as a team.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.