By Josh Brown
VANDALIA — The Troy girls basketball team that played in the first half looked nothing like the team that won its first three games of the season.
The one that played in the second half looked nothing like the one that had started Wednesday’s game at Butler.
In the end, though, the lackluster start — a 14-point deficit after the first quarter that turned into a 17-point one by halftime — was too much to overcome for the more aggressive Trojans that showed up in the second half, as the Butler Aviators held on for a 43-32 Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division victory Wednesday at Butler’s Student Activities Center.
“I was almost like two different games, two different teams,” Troy coach Aaron Johnson said. “That first half, we just kind of sleepwalked through it. There wasn’t a lot of intensity, not a lot of execution, and a good team like Butler took advantage of that. We had to regroup at halftime and find that fire and passion.
“I have to take the heat on a lot of that. There are some things that we need to fix in practice, and as a coach, that’s my responsibility. I need to make sure my team is prepared and understands our gameplan.”
The loss, Troy’s second straight overall and sixth in a row in the rivalry against the Aviators, dropped the Trojans to 3-2 and 1-2 in the GWOC American North, while Butler improved to 5-2 and 2-1 in the division.
“We have to be more mentally prepared and know that we need to play like that for four quarters,” Johnson said. “Every night in the GWOC, we have to outexecute, we have to outhustle, we have to play harder than our opponent for four quarters, not two, in order to win.”
That simply didn’t happen in the first quarter.
Troy actually took a brief 4-2 lead after Gabbi Johnson and Jordan Short hit back-to-back jumper in the first two minutes. But the Aviators went on a 16-0 run to close the quarter and scored the first bucket of the second to take a 20-4 lead, a stretch keyed by a number of Trojan turnovers that led to fast break baskets. Brittney Petrosky had three steals and three assists during the run, as well as scoring a pair of baskets, and it didn’t end until a steal and layup by MaKenna Taylor with 5:50 left in the first half.
A bucket by Holycross got Troy to within 12 at 20-8, but Butler scored the next seven points to take a 19-point lead, its biggest of the game, before a short jumper by Holycross made it 27-10 at the break.
It was clear from the start of the third quarter that the Trojans weren’t the same team from before halftime, though.
Holycross scored on a putback to open the third, then she set up Short for a 3-pointer. The defense forced a turnover and Bailey Hess scored on a drive, getting the Trojans back to with 10 at 27-17 in the first minute before a score by Petrosky ended Troy’s run.
The Aviators got the lead back up to 15 at 34-19, but a drive by Kiyha Adkins and a pair of Holycross free throws got Troy to within 11 at 34-23 heading into the final quarter.
Taylor cut the lead to single digits with a drive to start the fourth, but Butler extended the lead again, holding a 12-point edge at 39-27 with four minutes to play. Short hit a pull-up 3 to get the lead back to nine, then she hit one of three free throws to cut the deficit to eight at 39-31 with 2:14 to go — the closest the Trojans would get. After both teams missed front ends of one-and-ones, Petrosky drew a charge and Abbie Schoenherr hit two free throws to make it a 10-point game again, and Butler held on from there.
Short had nine points and Holycross had eight points and 10 rebounds to lead the Trojans on the night. Taylor and Adkins had four points apiece, Hess had two points and seven rebounds, Gabbi Johnson and Tia Bass each had two points and Jenna Kaup had one point.
“We did have some bright spots,” Johnson said. “I thought Kiyha did a really nice job in the second half. We moved her to point guard, and it took her a little getting used to. But in the second half, I thought she attacked the basket well and we moved the ball well. Alaura continues to be a dominating presence in the post, and we were able to get Jordan a couple open shots, as well.
“We keep preaching, our game has to start inside-out. The more we feed Alaura, the more she starts to get that presence inside, that’s going to open up our perimeter shooting. And I thought we forced the issue a lot, especially in the first half.”
Tyree Fletcher had 12 points and eight rebounds to lead Butler, Olivia Schoenherr had nine points and four rebounds, Willow Knight had nine points, Petrosky finished with eight points and four rebounds and Abbie Schoenherr scored five points.
Troy competes in Miami East’s Barnball Classic tournament on Saturday and Sunday, beginning with a matchup against the host Vikings at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s just a matter of how you get a team to start a game that way. I’m going to ask Siri. I’m going to ask Google,” Johnson said with a chuckle. “We showed, through those last two quarters, that we could play with or even a little better than them. If the game had started in the third quarter, we might have won — but that’s not the way it works.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.