By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy continued to take steps forward.
Bellefontaine is simply a team that’s already there.
The Chieftains won their sixth straight and improved to 7-1, making all the clutch plays after the Trojans took the lead with less than four minutes to play, while Troy struggled to hit shots down the same stretch and couldn’t regain control in a 54-48 loss Tuesday at the Trojan Activities Center.
It was the third Tuesday night game in a row the Trojans (3-5) have had a chance to get back to the .500 mark with a win, and it ended up being another missed opportunity. They had a number of those in the final two minutes against Bellefontaine specifically, too, missing a pair of potential game-tying 3-point attempts and going 2 for 7 from the field with zero offensive rebounds during that stretch.
“We felt like we should have won this one,” Troy boys basketball coach Paul Bremigan said. “From about the two-to-four-minute mark on, I thought we forced some shots. No, I won’t say we forced them. I won’t say they were bad shots, because they weren’t — they were just quick shots. We had some opportunities late in the fourth to take the lead, but we missed some quick shots.”
Early on, the Trojans didn’t get many shots.
Troy led 6-3 in the first after a layup by Ryan McClurg, but the Chieftains answered with three straight 3-pointers, two by Nicklaus Lyons and one by Jack Clement, and finished the quarter on an 11-0 run to take a 14-6 lead. Another Clement 3 to start the second quarter made it a 14-0 run before McClurg connected to get Troy back on the board. McClurg then hit a 3 to make it a six-point game, and that’s where things stayed at halftime, 24-18 Bellefontaine.
Troy had eight turnovers in that first quarter and 12 by halftime — but only turned it over five more times total in the second half. And while the Trojans outrebounded Bellefontaine 14-10 in the first half, the Chieftains made theirs count with second-chance points.
“That seems to be our M.O. — get them all out of the way early,” Bremigan said. “We turned it over early, and that hurt us. And they hit four 3s in the first half, and three of them were after offensive rebounds, where they caught it, reversed the ball and hit a 3.”
Troy came out more aggressive in the second half on both ends, only allowing the Chieftains one third-quarter field goal and cutting the lead to two at 26-24 after a pair of buckets by Brenden Kinnell and a score by Zach Reichelderfer three minutes in. Troy cut the lead to one twice but couldn’t even things up, and the teams went into the fourth with Bellefontaine clinging to a 33-31 lead.
Zach Boyer gave the Trojans their first lead since the first quarter by converting a three-point play on an inbounds pass from Hayden Kotwica, making it 38-37 with 4:40 to play. After McClurg hit a technical free throw, the Chieftains got a steal and Dawsin Tillman converted a three-point play to put Bellefontaine back up by one at 40-39. Kotwica hit a jumper to give the lead back to Troy, but Tillman hit a jumper to put the Trojans down again, then he grabbed a rebound on a Troy miss and hit a pair of free throws to make it a three-point game — and Bellefontaine still led 46-43 with two minutes to play.
Troy got a pair of stops on defense but missed 3-pointers that would have tied the game after each one, and a rebound and free throw by Hayes Roebuck after the second miss made it a two-possession game. A missed jumper and a pair of Tillman free throws made it 49-43, and another miss and two more Tillman free throws made it an eight-point game before Kotwica hit a 3 with 30 seconds to play. Brenden Kinnel connected on a drive at the buzzer, but there had simply been too many missed chances before then.
Bellefontaine outrebounded Troy 30-25 in the game — including an 11-6 edge in the fourth alone — and was 21 for 31 from the free throw line, 11 for 15 in the final quarter.
“We’ve just got to do a better job of both defending and rebounding,” Bremigan said. “It’s what we’ve been focused on, it’s what we’ve been working on, and we’re going to continue to work on it. If you don’t rebound, it limits your opportunities to run.”
McClurg led all scorers with 20 points, the third time in the last four games he’s hit the 20-point mark. Kotwica added seven points, five rebounds and three assists, Kinnel had seven points, Reichelderfer had six points and four rebounds, Devon Larger and Boyer each had three points and Zion Taylor had two points.
Tillman had 11 of his team-high 13 points for the Chieftains in the fourth quarter, going 7 for 7 from the free throw line. Clement added 11 points, Lyons hit three 3s and scored nine points, Roebuck added nine points and five rebounds and Spencer George had seven points and five rebounds.
The Trojans travel to Tecumseh Saturday night before returning home Jan. 10 to host Fairborn.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.