By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
SPRINGFIELD — Going into halftime leading by only one, Troy girls basketball coach Aaron Johnson tried something he hadn’t in his previous two years as coach.
“I went into halftime, and I asked the girls — I don’t think I’ve ever asked my team — what they think,” he said. “And they told me everything that I was going to say to them. So they get it. We just have to be able to do it.”
In the second half, the Trojans did just that.
Troy freshman point guard Macie Taylor scored 15 of her game-high 19 points in the second half, MaKenna Taylor hit three 3s and added 12 points and Tia Bass — despite seeing very limited time on the floor due to foul trouble — gave the team a third player in double figures with 10 points as the Trojans pulled away from Springfield Shawnee for a 47-41 victory in Monday’s season opener on the road.
It was the third season-opening win against the Braves in three tries for the Trojans (1-0) under Johnson. In his first season at the helm, Troy held on for a 46-43 victory in Springfield, and last season the Trojans handed Shawnee a 36-33 loss in Troy. And even though Monday’s game was still back and forth throughout, with eight lead changes and three ties, Troy took control in the second half and never looked back.
“I was never fearful. When it counted, the girls executed well,” Johnson said. “But I thought the consistency of our execution was poor. We’re in a hurry. We’re playing a little too fast — but I have kids out there trying to make plays. We talked to them about letting the game come to you instead of trying to force the issue, and we’re still forcing the issue. But that will come with experience.
“I think we’re very young, but we had people step up.”
Troy needed its younger players to step up, too, as Bass — a junior post player and the team’s leading returning scorer from last year — only played 2:07 in the first half, picking up two quick fouls.
“Our initial gameplan was to pound it inside, but we ran into a little foul trouble,” Johnson said.”Tia can be dominating. That’s the thing we’re trying to get Tia to understand. We are ‘that’ team when she’s on the floor. When she’s not in the game, we’re still a good team, but we’re just not ‘that’ team. She makes the defense play around her, which opens up the outside. We started to see that a little bit. But her presence is invaluable. We are a different team with her out there.
“Lauren McGraw was big for us, Morgan Kaiser came in and made big plays, and Payton Riley, for not playing since the eighth grade, I thought her presence inside was really good.”
Shawnee led 7-5 after one quarter, but MaKenna Taylor hit a pair of first-half 3s, including one late in the half to give Troy a 14-13 lead. A pair of Laura Borchers free throws made the score 16-15 at the break, sending the Trojans into the locker room with questions.
In the second half, they found their answer.
After the Braves took a 17-16 lead, Bass scored inside to give the lead back to Troy. Macie Taylor then grabbed a defensive rebound on the run and took it coast-to-coast for a layup, then a blocked shot by Bass found its way to MaKenna Taylor, who hit Macie Taylor streaking the other way for another fast-break finish. Bass picked up her fourth foul soon after that and had to return to the bench, but Macie Taylor then hit a pull-up 3 to finish off the nine-point run and give the Trojans a 25-17 lead — a lead they would not relinquish.
“I think we saw a glimpse of what Macie Taylor can do,” Johnson said. “It was a nerves thing. We’re talking about a 14-year-old freshman playing her first varsity game — and not just that, but away. I think she had to get that second wind and just settle down and play. And the tandem of both Taylors, her and MaKenna, they can feed off of each other. They play well together, and when we execute, it can be fun to watch.”
Macie Taylor scored eight points in the third quarter to help Troy build a 33-28 lead, and the margin remained five until the fourth when Bass came back onto the floor and converted a pair of three-point plays inside, giving the Trojans a more comfortable 43-34 edge. The Braves cut it back to five at 43-38, but Macie Taylor canned another 3 to make it 46-38, and Troy held on from there.
Macie Taylor added four assists and MaKenna Taylor had three, while Bass added eight rebounds and McGraw and Riley — who each did not score — had 12 and five rebounds, respectively, to help the Trojans win the battle of the boards 38-32. Scoring-wise, Borchers was 4 for 4 from the free throw line and had four points, while Erika Innes and Brennah Hutchinson each had one point.
Shawnee (0-1), which won the turnover battle by forcing 17 and committing 14, was led by Paree Furness with 12 points and five rebounds, Andi Meeks with 10 points and Deanna Barnes with seven points.
Troy continues its four-game road trip to begin the season Wednesday, opening Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division play at Greenville. The Trojans won’t play at home until Dec. 8 when they host Bethel in a 3:30 p.m. game.
“I said this last year, but I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any night,” Johnson said. “We found a way to get it done. I’ll take this win. I was pleased with our effort and our ability to execute when we needed to. If we execute better and don’t turn the ball over as much … 47 points with the turnovers we had? I’ll take that.
“To be honest with you? I wouldn’t want to come out here and be perfect, because what would we do in practice tomorrow? After Game 1, I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Contact Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.