By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — After Troy’s Laura Borchers scored inside with 37.8 seconds left to give the Trojans a four-point lead, she couldn’t help but pump her fist and yell.
It turned out to be the knockout blow in a back-and-forth slugfest.
And in the end, Tia Bass’ dominance on the glass on both sides of the court proved to be the difference for the Troy girls basketball team in a hard-fought 47-43 victory in their home opener over a tough Bethel team Saturday at the Trojan Activities Center.
The Trojans improved to 4-1 with the win despite playing from behind most of the game, while Bethel fell to 4-2. The game featured nine ties and eight lead changes throughout, with Troy not taking the lead for good until the 4:30 mark of the fourth quarter.
“They caused some chaos and got us out of our comfort zone,” Troy coach Aaron Johnson said. “We didn’t execute well or shoot particularly well, but in crucial moments we made plays. In crunch moments, we were able to execute or have a hustle play, get a stop and be able to score.”
And when it came down to it, the Trojans won the game on the glass, outrebounding the Bees 41-29. And Bass led the way there with a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds — with 10 of those points and 12 of those rebounds coming in the second half alone.
“That’s what we told the girls in the locker room after the game — we got beat on the boards, and that’s why we ultimately lost this one,” Bethel coach Corey Steinke said. “I’ve got to tip my hat to Tia Bass. She was their go-to, and we knew that we had to stop her — and we didn’t take the opportunities to stop her down the stretch. Getting her in early foul trouble was nice, but she sustained it in the second half and did her job. I give her all the credit in the world.”
And even though Bass did pick up her second foul midway through the second quarter, Johnson didn’t necessarily think that was the issue in the first half.
“Part of that wasn’t foul trouble, either. I talk about the inside-out game, but early today we didn’t have the inside game,” he said. “I don’t think our girls were looking to feed the post as much as I want them to, so Tia didn’t really have a lot of opportunities in the first half. But give credit to our team for taking coaching and getting her the ball in the second half.
“A lot of things happen when she scores. That opened up MaKenna (Taylor) for a couple 3s. We’re young, and it’s a learning process.”
Bass scored her only bucket of the first half on a putback on the game’s opening possession, but then Bethel’s Olivia Reittinger and Sam Wiley hit back-to-back 3s to give the lead to the Bees. Reittinger hit two more 3s in the first quarter to help the Bees hold a 14-13 lead after one, then she added a fourth 3 in the second quarter that had Bethel up 23-18 before a game-tying layup at the buzzer by Troy’s Macie Taylor made it 23-23 at the break.
“They made us play at a different speed and style than we’re accustomed to,” Johnson said. “We haven’t faced shooters like (McKenna) Gray and Reittinger this year. We made it a point in the second half to get a body on Reittinger and make it tougher. Going into the game, we wanted to stop Gray, who’s a heck of a player in her own right, then Olivia goes off and hits four 3s. We had to change our defense a little in the second half, and we were fortunate enough to get stops when we needed.”
The lead changed hands five times throughout the third quarter, with a pair of free throws by Natalie Moorman giving Bethel a 35-33 lead heading into the fourth. Bass scored in the paint to tie it and Macie Taylor stole the ball and took it for a layup to give the Trojans the lead, but a jumper by Moorman and free throw by Gray gave the Bees a 38-37 lead. A defensive rebound by Bass led to a fast-break layup-and-the-foul by MaKenna Taylor, though, and the three-point play gave Troy a 40-38 lead which they would not let slip away again.
Bethel got to within one at 40-39, but an offensive rebound by Macie Taylor led to a 3 by MaKenna Taylor to open up a four-point lead. A jumper by Klaudia Lowery later got the Bees to within one again at 44-43, but Macie Taylor drew a foul with 1:09 remaining. She hit the first and missed the second, and Bass hauled in the offensive rebound, then Macie Taylor eventually drove and dished to Borchers, who hit a layup to make it a four-point game again with 37.8 seconds left and basically seal it.
Macie Taylor finished with a game-high 16 points and added five rebounds and four assists, MaKenna Taylor finished with 12 points and hit three of Troy’s four 3s on the night, Borchers had two points and nine rebounds, Morgan Kaiser and Lauren McGraw each scored two points and Taylor Roop had one.
Reittinger led Bethel with 12 points, with all of them coming in the first half. Gray added six points, Moorman and Wiley each scored five, Klaudia Lowery and Makenna Floyd each had four, Machaela Staggs scored three and Lydia Lowery and Erin Turner both had two. Bethel won the turnover battle, forcing 15 and committing only nine, and was 8 for 10 from the free throw line, while Troy was 9 for 21 from the line.
“Division I against D-III — anytime we can come in against a team like that and a place, especially in their home opener, playing with that emotion they had, and go toe-to-toe with a D-I school, that’s a good thing,” Steinke said. “It’s been the same thing two years in a row, coming down to the wire in both games. Last year, it was a two-point win for them, and this year it was four. I thought my girls played well enough to win. We just fell short today.
“It was fun to coach against Aaron. We’re good friends off the floor, and I give him all the credit in the world He’s a great coach, and he had his team ready to play.”
Bethel will go on the road to face another D-I team on Monday at Xenia, while Troy returns to division play — and the road — Wednesday, traveling to Butler.
“Hats off to Corey and his program,” Johnson said. “We play each other all summer, our girls know their girls, and they’ve got a good program. We’ll watch this tape, and hopefully we’ll learn a lot, because that’s a good basketball team we just beat.”
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.