By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy girls basketball coach Aaron Johnson knew what happened against Trotwood Wednesday night.
“This was one of those games where we said whoever controls the tempo controls the game,” he said. “There were moments where I thought we were able to, but you can’t win a game in moments. It has to be very consistent.”
Facing the No. 3 team in the state in Division II, Trotwood, the Trojans could do little to slow down the Rams’ momentum as a 12-point deficit in the third quarter ballooned into a 70-31 loss in Greater Western Ohio Conference American League crossover play Wednesday at the Trojan Activities Center.
Troy (6-8, 4-4 GWOC American North Division) did keep the game within reach, trailing 35-23 early in the third quarter. But after a Tia Bass putback cut Trotwood’s lead to 14 at 39-25, the Trojans didn’t score again until a free throw in the middle of the fourth, with the Rams (11-1, 8-0 GWOC American South) scoring 23 unanswered points and going on a 28-1 run to put the game away.
In fact, the Rams — likely in an effort to prepare for Saturday’s showdown against the state’s No. 9 team in D-II, Tippecanoe — kept their full-court pressure in effect until the game’s final whistle, forcing as total of 30 Troy turnovers in the game and cashing many of those in on the other end. But to Johnson, the fact Trotwood didn’t call off the dogs or even their motivation for doing so didn’t matter.
“We didn’t do anything to help that out, either,” he said. “Very rarely do we give up. We don’t quit. But it’s the consistency. It’s being able to weather that storm, being able to weather that first four to six points of that 23-0 run and being able to get a bucket. We talk about this all the time — when things start to go bad, we have to be able to run an offense, because sometimes our offense is our best defense. And that’s not something that we did tonight.
“Give credit to Trotwood and their ability to apply that pressure and turn us over. Regardless of what you do, if you have 30 turnovers, you’re not going to win the game.”
And from the start, it was clear what Troy was up against.
Shaiquel McGruder — who entered the night leading the overall GWOC in scoring with 26 points per game — scored 15 points in the first half alone and Sha’Mya Leigh hit a pair of 3s, helping stake the Rams out to a 33-19 lead at the break. Troy had 13 of its turnovers in the first half, as well, but managed to keep the score relatively close on the strength of Bass, MaKenna Taylor and Kiyha Adkins each scoring five in the first half.
“Trotwood is a very athletic, quick team, and we have not seen pressure like that — I don’t think we will see pressure like that again,” Johnson said. “They have the ability to make you play their style of game, which is up and down the floor, and we’re not that team. That showed tonight.”
After Troy closed to within 39-25 in the third, though, McGruder took over even more. She scored on a putback, finished a fast break after a steal and then converted another Troy turnover into a three-point play in transition to make the score 48-35 Rams going into the fourth. Two 3s and two layups by Leigh and another putback by McGruder to start the fourth sealed the Trojans’ fate for good, with Troy not scoring again until an Alaura Holycross free throw made the score 62-26 midway through the fourth.
From there, Trotwood continued to press and build on the lead until a 3 by Troy’s Taylor in the final minute put up the last points of the game — Troy’s first field since early in the third.
McGruder finished with a game-high 26 points and added 13 rebounds and seven steals, while Leigh had 18 points and five assists. Mercedes Woodward gave the Rams two players with double-doubles as she piled up 15 points and 11 rebounds, Kellah Flucas added five points, Heaven Gooden had four points and Essence Thornton had two points.
“McGruder — well, saying she’s a D-I college basketball player, going to New Mexico State, says enough of it — but she’s quick, long, strong and versatile,” Johnson said. “When she traps you, with that wingspan, we didn’t know what to do with it. That’s not something we can simulate in practice.
“We knew coming in that they weren’t the best from 3, but saying that, the Leigh girl hit three. We wanted to pack in our zone and make them score from the outside, try to keep them off of the offensive glass, and we didn’t do that. We wanted to break their press, set up an offense, run some clock and make them play defense, and we didn’t do that either. We just did not execute the gameplan, and their pressure totally controlled the tempo. And we can’t be successful playing at that tempo against that team.”
Bass led the Trojans with nine points and seven rebounds, Adkins and Taylor each finished with eight points and Holycross added six points and seven rebounds.
Troy will look to bounce back on the road Saturday at West Carrollton.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.