By Josh Brown
TROY — In its 20th game of the season, the Troy girls basketball team finally put together a complete game.
And according to coach Aaron Johnson, it came at the perfect time.
Sophomore Tia Bass had a double-double and senior Alaura Holycross was in double figures as Troy’s post tandem dominated the interior Saturday against Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division rival Butler, and the rest of the Trojans made clutch plays when they mattered most to help the team hold on for a 45-37 Senior Night victory at the Trojan Activities Center — the Trojans’ first win over Butler since the 2013-14 season.
With the win, Troy improved to 11-9 on the season and 8-5 in the GWOC American North, snapping an eight-game losing streak to the Aviators that included a 48-26 loss at Butler back on Dec. 13, 2017 this season. The last time Troy defeated Butler was Jan. 4, 2017, before the careers of the team’s four seniors Holycross, Jordan Short, Valena Robinson and Dana Wynkoop began.
“You know what? I would’ve waited 20 games for this to happen on Senior Night,” Johnson said. “All four of those young ladies are just quality people. For Alaura and Jordan, both four-year varsity players, for their last game here in this activities center to be a win against a team where most people counted us out, a win against a quality team, for those two to play the way they did, I don’t know that I could’ve written that script any better. And for Dana and Valena, they contributed, made, plays and did key things to allow us to win this game.
“I’m so happy for them, and I’m so happy for the young ladies that played for them. The girls said ‘let’s play for them, let’s play for these four young ladies that have led us and have put their hearts and souls into this program,’ and it was great to see them do that.”
Butler, meanwhile, fell to 13-7 and 10-3 in GWOC American North play, finishing second in the division as, coupled with a Tippecanoe win over Greenville Saturday, the Red Devils clinched the outright title.
The win was also Troy’s third straight and fifth in its last six games, with the sectional tournament draw coming on Sunday. And a big key to flipping the result from the first meeting this season was preventing Butler — which was 8 for 19 (42 percent) from 3-point range the first time around — from having the same success shooting Saturday.
“Defensively, the biggest difference between this and the first time we played Butler was that we identified shots,” Johnson said. “And to be honest with you, they shot 40 percent from the 3-point line the first time, and nothing against them, but their capes fell off and they became human a little today.”
The Trojans never trailed in Saturday’s game, either, with Butler only tying the score once at 2-2 midway through the first quarter. But a Holycross putback gave Troy the lead for good, and the Trojans led 5-4 after one and then 15-10 at halftime on the strength of a combined 12 points from Bass and Holycross.
And while Butler did hit four 3s in the game, cutting Troy’s lead to as little as two at 18-16 early in the third quarter after a Willow Knight 3, the Trojans always had an answer — and that answer, most of the time, was Bass or Holycross.
“One of the things we’ve said since the beginning of the year — our strength is our post play,” Johnson said. “I think it was great to see that come alive. And Butler is a very good team, but we were able to get some offensive rebounds and some looks inside — and it was great to see Alaura and Tia look for each other, as well as kick it out and find some shooters. To me, that was our complete game.”
Butler drew to within five at 27-22 after three and trailed 29-24 early in the fourth, but Kiyha Adkins blew by the defense for a layup to make it a seven-point game then picked Knight’s pocket and took it in for a layup to give the Trojans their biggest lead of the game to that point at 33-24. The Aviators cut the lead to seven twice, but each time the Trojans answered until a Bass putback on a missed free throw gave Troy a 39-30 lead, then MaKenna Taylor found Bass for a fast break layup to make it 41-30 Troy with less than 1:30 to play.
From there, a 3 by Caitlin Plummer got Butler back to within seven at 44-37 in the final 30 seconds, but Trojans closed the game out and pulled their seniors to a standing ovation with 6.8 seconds remaining.
Bass led all scorers with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Holycross had 11 points and six rebounds as Troy outrebounded Butler 30-19 in the game. Adkins scored seven points, Short added six points and Taylor scored three points, with every player that saw action having at least one assist in the game.
Tyree Fletcher led Butler with 11 points and four rebounds, Abbie Schoenherr had eight points, Knight — who led Butler with 17 points in the first meeting — was held to five points and four rebounds, Gracie Price and Megan Allen each had four points, Plummer scored three and Jacie Dalton had two.
“In all honesty, the biggest thing about tonight was playing four quarters of solid basketball,” Johnson said. “We’ve been close in a variety of aspects. We didn’t shoot great tonight, but we executed really well. It was important for the girls to see that if we execute, if we stay on course and play for each other for four quarters, good things can happen.
“It took until game 20, but at least it came.”
And for the team’s four seniors, it couldn’t have come at a better time, either.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.