By Josh Brown
TROY — In the end, the Trojans just had a tiny bit too much energy on one key play in overtime.
And while Troy girls basketball coach Aaron Johnson was still thinking about the result, it didn’t matter to him as much as the rest of what he saw.
With the Trojans battling to re-tie the game with time running out in overtime, a flurry of missed shots and heavily-contested rebounds ended with Stebbins coming up with a stop and drawing a flagrant foul during the battle for the ball, with Korina George knocking down both free throws to make it a four-point game and put it effectively out of reach in a 45-38 win by the Indians Wednesday at the Trojan Activities Center.
“Oh, I loved it,” Johnson said. “It stings, sure. It’s a tough loss. But there was a lot of energy on the sideline and on the court. It was great to see. I saw some great effort tonight.”
It was an impressive effort by the Trojans, who fell to 6-6 and 2-5 in Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division play. Stebbins — which won its sixth straight and improved to 11-2 and 5-1 in the GWOC American South — meanwhile, was held to its lowest point total of the season despite the extra period, and it was only the second time this season that the Indians were held below 60 points.
“Stebbins came in averaging 63 points a game,” Johnson said. “In four quarters plus, we held them to 45. Defensively, we did a nice job.
“They were 10-2 coming in. I hope, after this, the girls realize that they can play with that caliber of team.”
The Indians hit three 3s in the first quarter and seven in the half, taking an 11-6 lead after one. Despite all of that, though, Troy’s Jordan Short hit a 3 and Kiyha Adkins came off the bench to hit two more in the second quarter, her second one bringing the Trojans to within two at 24-22 with 30 seconds to go until halftime.
But an inadvertent poke to an eye resulted in an automatic flagrant foul with 1.5 seconds left on the clock, and Bree Bransford — who had half of Stebbins’ first-half points — sank both free throws to send the Trojans to the locker room down 26-22.
“Stebbins came out in the first half and, well, I don’t know what their percentage was behind the 3-point line, but man,” Johnson said. “As a team, they’ve shot more than 300 3s, so we kind of expected that. They made some big shots in that first half, but it was great to see the girls weather that storm. We had a couple mini-runs there, got it down to four points by halftime.”
Troy cut the lead to two twice throughout a low-scoring third, but a 3 by Kristine George with 1:45 to go in the quarter gave Stebbins its biggest lead at 31-26. Short answered that, though, with a 3 of her own on an inbounds play, and the Trojans went into the fourth down only two at 31-29.
Alaura Holycross tied the game on the first possession of the fourth, then she drew a charge and eventually hit a pair of free throws to give the Trojans a 33-31 lead with 5:51 left to play. Korina Murphy tied the score with a jumper, then she hit a free throw with 3:35 left to give the lead back to Stebbins, but MaKenna Taylor grabbed an offensive rebound and tied the score once again with a free throw. Bransford hit a shot and then Murphy stole the ball and hit two free throws to make it 38-34 Indians, but Holycross put back her own miss and then hit two free throws to even things up again at 38-38 with 1:21 to go. A series of turnovers and missed shots by both teams, though, sent the game into overtime with the score left right there.
“We just could not get over that hump,” Johnson said. “We’d tie it up, even get up by two, but we just couldn’t get over that hump. I thought we executed okay for the most part, and we got good looks. They just didn’t go in.”
Murphy — who ended up scoring all of Stebbins’ points in the overtime — hit a jumper to open things and give the Indians a 40-38 advantage. Short hit a free throw with 1:09 left in the overtime to get Troy back to within one, but Murphy hit one with 35 seconds remaining to make it a two-point game again.
In a furious attempt to tie the score, both Short and Holycross fought to grab offensive rebounds on 50-50 balls, but Troy still couldn’t connect on the game-tying shot. And their odds ran out on one more 50-50 ball as Murphy grabbed the rebound and a flagrant foul was called in the scuffle. Murphy hit both free throws, and a pair of steals in the final 10 seconds eventually allowed Murphy to hit two more free throws with six seconds on the clock to close out the game.
“We had some turnovers in the fourth — we were pressing a little bit, trying to force some things,” Johnson said. “But at the same time, I love the fact that they’re out there trying to make plays. It’s hard to be upset with a girl out there trying to make something happen.”
Holycross and Short finished with 11 points apiece to lead Troy, with Holycross adding seven rebounds and Short five rebounds and three assists. Seven of Short’s points came in the first half, while eight of Holycross’ came in the second. Tia Bass added six points and five rebounds, Adkins had six points, Taylor had three points and Lauren McGraw had two points and five rebounds, with Valena Robinson adding three assists and two steals.
“Alaura’s still been a dominant force inside, and she even took three charges tonight. That goes back to our effort and defense,” Johnson said. “Kiyha hit two big 3s off the bench in the first half, Jordan was shooting with some confidence, MaKenna, starting as a freshman, I thought she did a nice job, and Lauren did a good job in her first varsity start, too. Gabbi Johnson got a lot of deflections and steals, Bailey Hess guarded Branson in the third and fourth quarters and did a nice job on her — I could name something everyone did.
“This was a great team effort for four quarters. I feel like it’s the first time we’ve played that way, with that much energy, for all four quarters. We’re right there. We just need to turn that corner.”
Branson finished with a double-double, 17 points and 10 rebounds — with 13 of those points coming in the first half. Murphy scored 12 of her 16 points in the second half and beyond, including seven in the overtime period. George and Hailey Rowe both hit two 3s and scored six points as the Indians finished with eight 3s as a team in the game — only one after halftime.
Troy remains at home Saturday, facing Springfield.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.