By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
VANDALIA — Even with a double-digit lead on the road at Butler heading into the fourth quarter, Troy girls basketball coach Aaron Johnson couldn’t let himself breath easy.
“I never feel in charge in this gym,” he said. “Last year, I think they shot 60-something percent from the 3-point line here. I’m never comfortable in this gym.”
Wednesday, the Trojans didn’t let the mystique of Butler’s Student Activities Center affect them, jumping out to a 12-0 lead to start the game and, behind a double-double by inside force Tia Bass and the sharpshooting of Macie and MaKenna Taylor, putting away a 51-35 victory over the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division rival Aviators.
Troy, which improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the GWOC American North with the win, was routed 46-28 at Butler last season, only to win at home 45-37 on the Trojans’ Senior Night later in the season — a win that snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Aviators at that point.
Bass — who led the way in last year’s win as a sophomore — did so again Wednesday, putting up a game-high 18 points and 13 rebounds as the Trojans dominated the glass en route to the win, outrebounding the Aviators 42-27 on the night.
“It feels amazing,” Bass said. “We hadn’t beaten Butler in many years, and last year to beat Butler at home, and then to come here this year and beat them on their home floor, it just feels amazing to be part of it.”
Butler (3-3, 2-1 GWOC American North) only managed one rebound in the entire first quarter as Troy jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the game’s first four minutes. The Aviators fought back, cutting the lead to 16-7 at the end of the quarter and 16-12 early in the second, but two 3s by MaKenna Taylor and one by Macie Taylor helped the Trojans rebuild a 29-20 lead at halftime.
“I feel like a broken record. When we execute, man, I think we look good. It’s just the consistency of that execution,” Johnson said. “A 12-0 lead, and it was great execution. But I think what happens sometimes is that we lose our focus because we’re up 12-0. And hats off to Butler — I knew they weren’t going to go away and got it to 16-12 — but then we started making plays. I love the way my team responds. Again, though, it’s that consistency.
“I mean, how can I be upset with Macie and MaKenna hitting 3s? And then we finally got the ball in to Tia. I thought our inside-out presence was really strong. They threw a bunch of defenses at us, but our girls were able to execute and get the ball inside.”
And in the third, Bass took over.
The junior scored eight of her 16 points in the quarter, including converting a tough three-point play on a feed inside from Macie Taylor to give Troy a 16-point lead at 39-23, the Trojans’ biggest of the game. Troy maintained that lead after three at 43-27, and the closest the Aviators got in the fourth was 12.
The Trojans worked together on offense all night — of Troy’s 21 field goals on the night, 16 came with the benefit of an assist, with only a small handful of putbacks and solo baskets. After Bass, who added four blocked shots and two assists to her totals, Macie Taylor had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists, MaKenna Taylor had nine points, four rebounds and five assists, Lauren McGraw had six points, six rebounds and two assists, Payton Riley had two points and Chamber Browning and Taylor Roop each had one point.
“We’ve become a family this year,” Bass said. “We all feel it. We’re in this together, and we have a bond that just can’t be broken. That’s the way our team is built. It’s amazing.”
“We were able to find Lauren McGraw and Laura Borchers, and just the way the team shared the ball … I don’t know if I coached a team that was as unselfish as this team was tonight, looking for one another,” Johnson said.
For Butler, Tyree Fletcher led the way with 16 points and nine rebounds, Evan Neely had six points and five rebounds, Gracie Price had six points, Abbie Schoenherr was held to only four points and Olivia Follick had three points. Troy’s defense held the Aviators to only 11 field goals — six of them coming from 3-point range — on 21.2 percent shooting.
“Tonight, it was defense,” Johnson said. “Fletcher went off for 14 points in the first half, and we held her to two in the second half. We made that adjustment at halftime, and those two points came on free throws. She’s their leading scorer and leader, and we wanted to limit her opportunities. And in the second half, we did that. Our defense is our catalyst, what gets us going, and we tried to focus on defense this week.”
And with Saturday’s matchup against two-time defending GWOC American North champion and current co-leader Tippecanoe up next, a key for the Trojans was to not get caught looking ahead.
“It was a great reminder looking on that scoreboard up there and seeing we were both 2-0 in the North,” Johnson said. “The ladies have made winning the North a goal, and we talk about the process of that being one game at a time. There is not one game that’s more important than another. The biggest one is that one, and I think we did a good job of staying in the moment. One of the girls said ‘what’s to come doesn’t matter if we don’t take care of today.’ They have a great outlook.
“They’re very self-driven. I don’t have to give a lot of motivational speeches.”
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.