By Josh Brown
TROY — After struggling to find something all day, the Troy girls basketball team finally found something that worked late in the fourth quarter.
The Trojans simply got caught going to that well one too many times.
Clinging to a one-point lead in the final 30 seconds, Greenville forced a Troy turnover on a forced attempt to get the ball into the paint, and Morgan Gilbert sank a pair of free throws to give the Green Wave some breathing room with 20.1 seconds left — which it then used to hold off a late Trojan rally and claim a 37-33 Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division victory Saturday at the Trojan Activities Center.
Alaura Holycross — who set a school record with 24 rebounds in the first meeting between the teams, a 35-34 Troy win — scored nine of her game-high 11 points in the second half, including hitting a pair of free throws that cut Greenville’s lead to 34-33 with 51.6 seconds left. The Wave missed the front end of a one-and-one and Holycross got the rebound — but when the Trojans (9-9, 4-7 GWOC American North) got into their half-court set on the other side, they tried to force a bad pass inside, and the Wave defense jumped on it.
“That’s the first look in that set,” Troy coach Aaron Johnson said. “We have to run it through. But we have a tendency to think that what’s worked before will always work, and we’ve got to understand that there’s other things we can do when that doesn’t work. We need to go to the second phase of our offense, and we kind of get stuck in the first phase. And that’s what we have to work on.
“This is the second time through the division, and we have to understand that teams have an idea of what we’re going to do, they know the presence that Alaura is in the post and they’re going to try to take that away. So we have to be able to execute and look for part two, part three of our offense.”
With Troy forced to foul from there, Gilbert hit a pair of free throws to make it 36-33 Greenville (7-10, 4-6 GWOC American North) with 20.1 seconds to go. But with 6.1 seconds left, Troy’s Jordan Short drew a foul on a missed 3-point attempt and looked to be heading to the line with a shot to tie the game — but the foul was ruled to have come after the shot, and she was only given two free throws. She missed the first then missed the second intentionally in a last-ditch effort to get the ball back, but Greenville’s Cassie Cromwell was able to get the rebound and sank one free throw to ice the game.
It was Troy’s fourth game in the last week, beginning with last Saturday’s home win over West Carrollton. A loss to Tri-Village on Monday and a hard-fought win at Xenia on Wednesday later, it was hard to tell just how much gas the Trojans had left.
“I just don’t think we came to play today,” Johnson said. “Maybe after four games in a week … it’s a tough stretch. So many uncharacteristic mistakes, so many uncharacteristic mental mistakes, especially for Game 18. Game 2? Sure. But give Greenville credit. They executed their gameplan well, put a lot of pressure on our guards — and we didn’t handle the pressure.”
Troy turned the ball over 24 times in the game, including 12 in the first half to fall behind 20-16 at the break. The Trojans defense got stops in the third quarter, though, holding the Wave to only one field goal and helping Troy take a 23-22 lead on a bucket inside by Holycross. But a steal by Gilbert led to a game-tying free throw by Payton Brandenburg, and an offensive rebound and free throw by Brandenburg gave the Wave a 24-23 lead heading into the fourth.
Kiyha Adkins gave Troy a 25-24 lead on a drive early in the fourth, but a steal and layup by Gilbert put Greenville back on top, then a tough catch and finish inside by Cromwell made it a three-point game with four minutes to play. The Wave led by as many as six at 34-28 with 1:30 to play, but a bucket by Holycross, a free throw by Bailey Hess and two Holycross free throws cut the gap to 34-33 and set up Greenville’s big plays late.
Holycross had 11 points and five rebounds to lead Troy and Adkins finished with eight points and four rebounds. Hess had four points, Jenna Kaup had three points and three assists, Tia Bass had three points and four rebounds and Short and Alyse Holter each had two points.
Brandenburg scored all eight of her points in the second half to lead Greenville and added four rebounds, Gilbert had seven points and five rebounds, Cromwell had seven points, Saki Nakamura and Karsyn Shaffer each had six points and Jada Garland had three points.
“Effort-wise, the girls play hard,” Johnson said. “I’m really trying to get us to go from playing harder to playing smarter, more efficient. Let’s make that energy and all that effort go to something good rather than just effort.”
Troy has a pair of tough division rematches this week, both at home — against Sidney on Wednesday and Butler on Feb. 4.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.