By Josh Brown
TROY — Every time a Piqua defender crept up to guard him at the 3-point line, Troy’s Ryan McClurg just took a step back.
And another. And another. It didn’t seem to matter how far behind the line he stood when he pulled up to shoot. The ball was headed in regardless.
After a career-best 23 points in a loss at Tippecanoe Tuesday, the Trojan senior torched even that effort, dropping 33 points on rival Piqua — including five 3-point bombs, most of which came from five feet behind the line — to lead Troy to an 82-74 Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division victory over the Indians Friday at the Trojan Activities Center.
McClurg had 19 points by halftime and 25 after three quarters to help the Trojans (2-3, 2-3 GWOC American North) take a 12-point lead heading into the fourth. He then went 6 for 8 from the free throw line — and Troy was 15 for 19 as a team — in the final quarter as the Indians (1-5, 1-4 GWOC American North) were forced to foul in an attempt to catch up.
“Ryan hit some bombs,” Troy boys basketball coach Paul Bremigan said. “He made some where he just kept backing up and made them. I’ve played against people like that, and that’s frustrating (to the defense).”
“I just have the green light whenever I’m open,” McClurg said. “My teammates did a good job of finding me in the zone with skip passes.
“It’s Piqua, it’s a big game, and we really needed this one. We didn’t play so well against Tipp. We just wanted to come out, play hard and play as a team. I think we eliminated our turnovers tonight, moved the ball and executed in the fourth quarter.”
Unlike in Tuesday’s error-filled loss to the Red Devils, the Trojans protected the basketball Friday night, only turning it over three times in the first half — where they led 46-39 — and nine times for the entire game.
“If we don’t kill ourselves with turnovers … for the pace we want to play at, I told (assistant) coach (Mark) Evilsizor that sometimes we need to coach with tape over our mouths,” Bremigan said. “Because when you play a fast pace, you’re going to have some turnovers. Now, in the 20s? That’s too much. But sometimes, if you’re trying to run and try to correct every little thing, the kids will be afraid to run. We did a real nice job tonight with the tempo, and I thought that made a difference in the second half.”
Early on, Piqua kept up with Troy’s pace.
The lead changed hands five times and the score was tied four times in the first quarter as both teams raced up and down the floor, with neither defense able to get a stop. Piqua’s Devon Brown tied the score one last time at 18-18 before Troy’s Keenan Kinnel saved an offensive rebound falling out of bounds by flinging it to Hayden Kotwica under the basket for an easy layup to give Troy the lead for good. Brenden Kinnel — who scored seven of his career-best 14 points in the first quarter — finished off the first with a drive to the basket to give the Trojans a 22-18 lead.
McClurg then hit a pull-up 3 to kick off the second and put Troy up by seven, which is where the margin remained for most of the quarter. But Brown hit a 3 and then scored on a fast break to cut Troy’s lead to 39-37 and force a Trojan timeout with 1:40 left until halftime — but McClurg drained an NBA-ranged 3 to make it a five-point game again. Brown connected on a drive for Piqua, but Kotwica hit a jumper and McClurg scored a layup on an inbounds play, and Troy led by seven again at the break.
In the first half, Brown had 13 points and Gage Smith hit four 3s for 12 points to keep Piqua in the game — but neither scored in the third quarter, helping the Trojans build a 12-point lead heading into the fourth at 63-51.
“I thought Piqua played well offensively. Neither coach is probably real happy with their defense,” Bremigan said with a chuckle. “We made some adjustments, and they had kids that made big plays, too.
“I was real happy with some of our kids that came off the bench, and all of the kids did a nice job tonight.”
Troy held its biggest lead of the game at 14 points after Zach Reichelderfer scored to open the fourth, but Brown answered with a 3, Nate Monnin scored back-to-back buckets in the paint — and suddenly it was a game again. Piqua cut the lead to four at 70-66 with just under two minutes to play after Smith’s five 3 of the game, but Brenden Kinnel hit a pair of free throws. After McClurg hit a free throw, Monnin scored again to cut the lead to 73-58, but that was as close as the Indians got. McClurg and Zach Boyer both hit a pair of free throws to make it a nine-point game, and Troy sealed it from there from the line.
McClurg hit five of Troy’s nine 3s on the night to help get to 33 points, while Reichelderfer and Brenden Kinnel both added 14 points. Keenan Kinnel had seven points and five rebounds, Kotwica had six points, four rebounds and three assists, Boyer had four points, Eli Palmer had three points and four assists and Zion Taylor had one point.
Four Indians reached double figures, with Ben Schmiesing leading the way with 20 points. Brown came off the bench and added 16 points and six rebounds, Monnin finished with 15 points and five rebounds and Smith finished with 15 points, hitting five of Piqua’s 11 3s as a team.
And in his second year as Troy’s coach, Bremigan is learning just what the rivalry against Piqua means to his Trojans.
“I didn’t realize the big rivalry until I came here,” he said. “But (Piqua coach) Heath (Butler) and I are good friends, we talk, and I’m sure he wants to beat me as much as I want to beat them. It was a good, clean game, both teams played hard, and that’s what you want in a rivalry. It was a good win for us tonight.”
“It feels great,” McClurg said. “There was a little more fire (because it was Piqua), yeah. Hopefully we can get on a roll and win a couple.”
Troy hosts Urbana Tuesday before a makeup game at Springfield Shawnee Thursday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.