By Josh Brown
TROY — Nearly every team possesses at least one weapon.
The Troy Christian girls basketball team has simply found ways to disarm its opposition.
The Eagles (4-1, 1-0 Metro Buckeye Conference) won their fourth straight Monday night, holding Yellow Springs’ Elizabeth Smith 24 points below her average coming in while getting contributions up and down their own lineup to pull away in the second half for a 56-30 victory to open league play at home.
Yellow Springs’ Smith entered the game coming off of back-to-back 30-plus-point efforts, both of the wins by the Bulldogs (2-1, 0-1 MBC). But Troy Christian held her to only three points in the first half — and led 22-9 at the break as a result — and then pulled away in the second half, holding her to only seven on the night.
“They had a girl, Smith, coming in averaging 31 points a game,” Troy Christian Ferraro said. “She averaged 31 points in the first three games they played, and today we held her to seven. So that’s just a great team effort on defense.
“We had to give up something, and we gave (Morgan Minnich) some open 3s. But to our credit, we would rather have her score than their big scorer score. I was really proud of how we put defensive pressure on that girl.”
But with the Bulldogs also doing their best to take away the Eagles’ strength — their post play — Troy Christian needed other players to step up and carry the load in the first half.
Guard Cara Salazar led the Eagles at halftime with seven points, helping Troy Christian take a slim 8-5 lead after one quarter and then grow that to 22-9 at the break. Hailey Peters and Kathryn Lee, Troy Christian’s two leading scorers entering the game, only combined for seven points in the first half.
“They were going to try to take away our inside people tonight,” Ferraro said. “They scouted us Saturday night, and they were going to double our two inside people. So our perimeter players had to step up. We made some adjustments at halftime, and that’s how we got our inside players more involved in the third and fourth quarter.”
Those adjustments did the trick.
After a 3 by Minnich and a pair of free throws by Smith cut the Eagles’ lead to seven at 23-16 early in the third, Troy Christian went on a 9-0 run to effectively put the game out of reach. Lee stepped back and hit a 3 to open the run, then a jumper by Kenley Blake and back-to-back buckets inside by Peters made the score 32-16 before Smith was able to connect and end the run. But Salazar hit her second 3 of the night right before the end of the quarter, and the Eagles held a commanding 35-18 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
“We have to get Hailey touches,” Ferraro said. “In the third quarter, we started getting Hailey the basketball because we changed things at halftime. When we have a decided height advantage, we have to get touches for our big people. I thought our kids did a nice job with the adjustments, and they moved the basketball really well in the second half.”
Peters continued her takeover of the game in the fourth quarter, adding eight more points — six of those being second-chance points after she grabbed offensive rebounds — helping the Eagles to pull away even further. She finished with a game-high 17 points and posted a double-double, grabbing eight rebounds in the second half alone.
Salazar scored 12 points on the night, hitting a pair of 3s and going 4 for 6 from the free throw line, and Lee gave the Eagles a third player in double digits with 10 points. Lauryn Lavy added six points, Blake and Sarah Earhart had four apiece and Cait Echols chipped in three.
Minnich led the Bulldogs with 16 points, hitting all three of their 3s on the night, Smith followed with her season-low seven points and Julie Roberts scored four.
“We’ve won four in a row,” Ferraro said. “And it’s all because of the defensive end. We have to do so many things better on the offensive end, but on the defensive end, we’ve done a great job of taking the opposition’s best players away. We did it Thursday at Piqua, Saturday at Greenon, and obviously we did it tonight.
“Almost every team’s got a player that can average 25-30 points. Our goal is to scout properly to make sure we take away their best people and to make some of their other people have to shoot the basketball.”
The Eagles will look to continue that trend on Dec. 12 when they travel to Dayton Christian for another MBC matchup.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.