By Luke Severt
For the Troy Daily News
TROY — According to Tippecanoe girls basketball coach Andy Holderman, his team’s mentality this season has been to “respect everyone, fear no one.”
In an early-season test for two Greater Western Ohio Conference American League North unbeatens, the Troy Trojans (5-2, 3-1 GWOC) earned the respect of the Red Devils (5-1, 4-0 GWOC) as they were able to erase a nine-point halftime deficit and nearly escape with a comeback win. However, it was Tippecanoe who was victorious in the end by a final score of 45-43 at Troy High School on Saturday afternoon.
In what was a rollercoaster of a game, the start was rather even. Neither team facilitated much offensively, and the first quarter ended 9-7 in Tippecanoe’s favor.
The Red Devils scored 14 points to open the second quarter, with the run only interrupted by a Troy 3-pointer, and the Trojans suddenly found themselves trailing by double figures, down 21-10.
“If we take away that second quarter, it’s a completely different game,” Troy head coach Aaron Johnson said postgame. “A team like Tipp City, I give them all the credit in the world. We didn’t play well the second quarter, and they got 19 points and put us in that hole. That’s what good teams do.”
Tippecanoe would head to the locker room in control with a 28-19 lead at halftime. Yet, the game was far from over.
As the third quarter started, the curtain raised. The Macie Taylor show was about to begin.
After little scoring to open the half from each team, Taylor — Troy’s leading scorer on the season, and only a freshman — drove to the basket, laying it in for two. After a defensive stop by the Trojans, Taylor was fouled, and capitalized on both free throws.
Then, with mere seconds left on the clock in the third quarter, Taylor heaved a 3-point attempt from a few feet beyond the arc. The long-distance shot fell flawlessly through the net as the buzzer sounded. Taylor had scored seven points in a row, and all of a sudden, Troy was within four.
“I had to get Macie in attack mode,” Johnson said. “Her going laterally is not Macie’s game, so we used a different offensive set where I can have her attacking the basket. That’s what Macie does, and I think that was pretty evident in the second half.”
To open the final quarter, Taylor had a steal and was fouled while shooting, making one of two free throws. Tippecanoe’s Ashleigh Mader answered with two of her team-high 15 points on the day, but the Trojans still had momentum.
With her team within one, Taylor sped down the court, finishing with a strong bucket to give Troy its first lead of the game and force Holderman to call a timeout.
“It would have been so easy to come out in the third and fourth quarter with the ‘It’s Tipp City, here we go again’ mentality,” Johnson said. “I am so proud of their fight, of their effort, of them staying together, and playing together.”
The next five minutes were a hectic combination of lead changes, free throws and intensity. At one point it looked as if the Red Devils had secured a victory, as they established a six-point lead with less than two minutes to play, and MaKenna Taylor — Macie’s sister — had fouled out.
However, Macie Taylor quickly answered with four points of her own, and a Tia Bass putback on the next possession evened the score with only 45 seconds left to play.
The Red Devils ran their offense for nearly all of those 45 seconds before Mader decided to attack the basket. She was fouled, and sent to the free-throw line.
With Tippecanoe’s 33-game winning streak in league play at stake, Mader sank both free throws, and the Red Devils led.
The Trojans advanced the ball past half court and called a timeout. They had 5 seconds to try to win the game or send it to overtime.
The in-bounds pass found Taylor, who was contested by a swarm of defenders as she shot and missed a layup. The ball was tipped back out to Troy’s Laura Borchers at the top of the key, but her desperation heave was off, and the Red Devils celebrated a nerve-wracking victory.
“The good part about it was that it was the first time we’ve been in that situation,” Holderman said about the tight contest. “We’re still young, and it was nice to have a test like this, and obviously it’s even better to come out on the winning side.”
With the win, Tippecanoe’s streak improved to 34 games. It has never lost a game to a conference opponent, now in its third season of GWOC play. Because of this, Holderman knows his team has a “huge target on our backs.”
To go with Mader’s 15, Brooke Aselage and Kendall Clodfelter both finished in double figures with 11 points each. Katie Salyer had four, as did Rachel Wildermuth to round out the scoring for the Red Devils.
In a rare occurrence, only three different Trojans scored on Saturday. Macie Taylor finished with a career-high 26 points — 18 of which came in the second half. Bass added 10 of her own, and MaKenna Taylor finished with seven.
“Macie did an incredible job,” Johnson said. “Every time she got the ball, she dominated. Also, the way that she and her sister are starting to gel and play together, I love what that’s becoming.”
The two teams will meet again on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at Tippecanoe High School, where Troy will be looking for redemption, and the Red Devils may still be fighting to keep their streak alive. For now, Holderman is satisfied with his team’s resiliency — and ultimately, the win.
“That’s why you play these games,” he said. “Playing a cupcake schedule doesn’t prepare you for later on.”
Johnson said he believes that if his Trojans were to play Tippecanoe 10 times, the series would split, with each team winning five games.
“The good thing is that we play them again,” he said with a hearty, confident laugh.