By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy girls basketball coach Aaron Johnson made a calculated gamble.
It very nearly paid off.
Spurred by a career night by Kiyha Adkins, the Trojans fought their way back into a Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division rivalry matchup against Sidney, but the Yellow Jackets got enough help surrounding star center Celena Taborn to survive in the end to escape the Trojan Activities Center with a 48-41 victory Wednesday night.
The Trojans (9-10, 4-8 GWOC American North) focused their defensive efforts on Taborn, who came in averaging 40.3 points per game over the Jackets’ last three games but was held to 21 points and 15 rebounds Wednesday. But Kiara Miller — who averaged 3.2 points per game on the season coming in — finished with 14 points and six rebounds to complement Taborn’s production.
“Our gameplan was to try to contain Taborn,” Johnson said. “You can’t stop her. At 21 points, I think we contained her. But Miller gets 14 points — averages three a game. We were playing percentages, and the gameplan was that someone else was going to have to step up to beat us, and Miller did that. Our gameplan was that Taborn was not going to beat us, and we feel like she didn’t.
“Sidney just made plays late and made free throws at the end. It was one of those situations where I don’t think we lost. We got beat by a team that played a little better. But I thought we played really well tonight.”
Troy maybe played its best game of the season.
The Trojans matched their best shooting performance of the year, going 18 for 42 (42.9 percent) from the field. And Adkins was a big part of that, going 4 for 5 from 3-point range and posting her first double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds — both career-high totals — along with three steals and two assists.
Bailey Hess tied her season high with 10 points and added seven rebounds and three assists, Tia Bass had four points and seven rebounds, Alaura Holycross had four points and six rebounds, Jordan Short had four points and four rebounds and MaKenna Taylor had two points as Troy outrebounded Sidney (12-6, 9-3 GWOC American North) 39-36 for the game and won the turnover battle 12-11.
“Our girls played with tenacity and heart tonight. They really wanted this one,” Johnson said. “We’re disappointed that it was a loss, but it was more of a gameplan loss than it was the girls. The girls played well. They executed the gameplan to a tee. They executed and did what was asked of them. A couple of other players from Sidney just made some big shots, and that was the difference. We were going to leave someone open if we kept double-teaming Taborn — and the girl we left open ended up with 11 more points than her average.”
Troy started the game slow offensively, only managing a long jumper by Holycross and a layup by Short in the first quarter. Taborn, meanwhile, kicked off the game by hitting a 3, then Miller hit a jumper to give Sidney a 5-0 lead. After Short cut Sidney’s lead to 7-4 late in the quarter, Miller closed out the first by canning a pair of jumpers to give the Jackets an 11-4 lead after one.
A steal and layup by Alina Kindle midway through the second quarter gave Sidney its biggest lead at 18-8, but Hess scored on a drive and then set up the first of Adkins’ 3-pointers to get Troy back to within five. Taborn was fouled with 1.6 seconds on the clock, though, and she hit both free throws to send the Trojans to the locker room down 20-13.
After a Taborn free throw to start the second half, Adkins hit another 3 off of a Hess assist, then an Adkins steal and layup cut the lead to 21-18. Holycross drove and kicked to Bass for a layup to cut the Jackets’ lead to only one at 21-20 and Troy got the ball back with a shot at the lead, but a miss on the offensive end turned into back-to-back 3s by Hayley Powers and Braxtyn Lee on the other end, and Sidney went into the fourth nursing a 27-20 lead.
A three-point play by Taborn and another Miller jumper early in the fourth gave the Jackets an 11-point lead at 32-21, but Adkins hit another 3 and then hit a floater to keep Troy in the game. Sidney pushed the lead back to 10 at 41-31 with three minutes to play, but the Trojans went on an 8-1 run capped off by a putback by Taylor in transition to cut the lead to 42-39 with 1:24 left to play.
But Miller hit a pair of free throws, Sidney got a stop on defense and Miller scored on a fast break to push the lead back to 46-39. Sidney hit the front ends of three straight one-and-ones to build the lead back to 10 before Holycross hit a shot at the buzzer to finish things off.
Lee and Kindle finished with four points apiece for Sidney, while Powers and Carly Dean each had three.
“We just didn’t get the ball to bounce our way a couple of times,” Johnson said. “We missed a few layup opportunities. And we only got to the line for five free throw attempts, went 1 for 5. We typically get to the line 13-15 times a game. They were 8 for 12 in the fourth quarter and 12 for 18 in the game.
“But there were more positives than negatives in this game. The girls played really well. Kudos to Kiyha and Bailey both, and it won’t show up in the box score, but what Alaura did to Taborn, holding her to 21 points. She did a great job playing her physically. Taborn was tired and frustrated in the end — Alaura did a great job on her defensively, as well as making Taborn play defense herself.
“The girls played really well — we just had a gameplan, they executed it well and the gameplan just didn’t work.”
Troy now has three division games remaining in the regular season, a tough stretch beginning with a home game against Butler on Saturday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.