By Josh Brown
TROY — Just like last season, the Troy girls basketball team needed a fourth-quarter rally to come from behind and defeat Springfield Shawnee in its season opener.
And while the Trojans’ margin was slightly more comfortable in the final minute than last year’s, coach Aaron Johnson didn’t feel the difference in his stress levels.
“Maybe for you,” he said with a laugh at that prospect.
Still, his Trojans (1-0) — who trailed by eight going into the final quarter — went on a 12-3 run to open the fourth and claim the lead, spurred by a 3-point barrage by Alaura Holycross, Jordan Short and Dana Wynkoop. And in the final minute, Holycross and Kiyha Adkins both sank pairs of free throws to extend the lead to a comfy five as Troy held on for a hard-fought 36-33 victory in its season opener Monday at the Trojan Activities Center.
For Troy — which came back from four behind in the fourth against the Braves (0-1) last season and held off numerous opportunities for Springfield Shawnee to retake the lead in the final minute before closing out a three-point win — the key ended up being executing its offense and knocking down its open shots.
“In that fourth quarter, we finally started executing,” Johnson said. “That was our primary objective today. We have our keys to winning, and No. 1 was execution.”
The Trojans had gone 0 for 3-point range in the first three quarters, while the Braves used a pair of treys in the second quarter to gain the advantage and build a 28-20 lead heading into the fourth. But Holycross banked in a 3 to get Troy started, then she dished to Short for another 3 to cut Springfield Shawnee’s lead to two at 28-26. Hannah Schartz answered with a 3 for the Braves, but Short found Dana Wynkoop open for one more 3, and the first-year senior banked her shot it to close the gap to 31-29.
Wynkoop then stole the ball and hit a free throw to bring Troy to within one, then she found Holycross open at the free throw line for a short jumper that put the Trojans on top 32-31 — their first lead since the middle of the opening quarter.
“Honestly, Dana ignited a bit of an explosion there,” Johnson said. “She hits a 3, gets a steal and makes a free throw. That right there was a big momentum swing. Dana, for not playing since seventh or eighth grade and stepping in as a senior in that situation to give us those quality minutes and make those quality plays, I felt that was the difference.”
Once it had the lead, Troy’s stingy defense did the rest. The Braves missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:09 remaining, and Holycross came up with a big defensive rebound and was fouled. To that point, she was 2 for 8 from the free throw line on the night — but she casually knocked down both free throws in that big moment to extend the Trojans’ lead to 34-31 with 54 seconds left on the clock.
Holycross finished with a game-high 17 points and 10 rebounds, scoring half of her team’s points with 10 in the first three quarters and then adding seven more in the fourth.
“Alaura kept us in the game those first three quarters,” Johnson said. “That’s what a captain does. That’s what Alaura did last year for us, and that’s kind of the expectation. Alaura comes to play every day. She practices hard, and it pays off. We can see that in her offensive prowess, her ability to get to the basket, and defensively she boxes out, takes up space, and once that ball’s in her hand, you’re not getting it out.”
Holycross came up with another defensive rebound with 36.3 seconds to go to shut down another Shawnee possession, and Adkins sank a pair of free throws with 27 seconds on the clock to extend the lead to 36-31. Andi Meeks hit a jumper for the Braves with 0.2 seconds remaining, but it was too late at that point and the Trojans held on.
“From there, it was nice to be able to make free throws down the stretch,” Johnson said. “That’s what the girls are capable of, though, that fourth quarter. Going into it, we said let’s get back to what we do. Let’s run things through, be patient and execute — and good things will happen.
“It was nice to see a nice team effort. Shawnee’s a good team, created a lot of mismatches for us and took advantage of them. I think we were a little impatient and careless with the ball, and we were trying to hard to make plays and force the game rather than letting it come to us. And in that fourth, maybe we were so tired that we finally relaxed and let the game come to us.”
Adkins finished with six points and two assists, Short added five points, Wynkoop scored four points, Lauren McGraw had two points and Tia Bass and Valena Robinson each had one, while MaKenna Taylor added six rebounds to help the Trojans outrebound Shawnee 32-26. The Trojans were only 9 for 22 from the free throw line in the game — but a clutch 5 for 9 in the fourth quarter.
Emily Lord led the Braves with nine points and eight rebounds, Schartz and Madison Jones each added six points and Paree Furness scored five.
Troy travels to Ponitz Saturday.
“To come back like that in the fourth quarter, I give our ladies a ton of credit,” Johnson said. “That takes grit, confidence in one another and confidence in the system. Our goal was to start out 1-0, and we accomplished that. Now the goal is to go 2-0. We have a lot of things to fix. We have more work to do.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.