By Luke Severt
For the Troy Daily News
TROY — On Dec. 22, 2015, the Troy boys basketball team was defeated 72-66 in an away game at Belmont. In hindsight, it was a rather unimportant affair, one that has had few implications since. It was just one game, just one loss out of the 15 they’d suffer compared to eight wins while new head coach Paul Bremigan worked to rebuild the Trojan basketball program in his first season wearing red and gray.
It seems all but irrelevant now, that game, that loss.
Fast forward three years and one week to Dec. 29, 2018, to Saturday. The Trojans scored 31 first-quarter points — the highest-scoring quarter by a Troy team in 67 games, since the loss to Belmont in 2015, when they scored 33 in a fourth-quarter comeback effort that fell just a bit short.
Similarly, on Saturday, one quarter of dominance proved to not be enough, as Troy lost to the Ponitz Golden Panthers (4-6) by a final score of 77-59 in a non-conference matchup at the Trojan Activities Center.
In the first quarter, the Trojans hit four 3-pointers. Sophomore Jaden Owens had nine points. Junior big-man Austin Stanaford had seven Troy points in a row. The offense was poetic with its movement and efficiency. The defense was gritty, quick and tough. The passes connected, the shots fell, the rebounds were grabbed. The Trojans had a 31-16 lead after eight minutes of play.
Despite the early excellence, Bremigan’s response when he was asked if he was satisfied with the first-quarter performance was a reflection of how his team fared for the remainder of the night.
“Sure,” he said, bluntly. “But that’s only one quarter.”
The second quarter was almost the polar opposite of the first. Ponitz was able to eliminate all Trojan momentum and build a substantial amount of its own. According to Bremigan, his team did not respond to the scoring swing ideally, and there was one word he continually used while discussing what they did: panic.
“As the game went on, I think our shot selection got worse, and I think we pressed the panic button a little too much,” Bremigan said. “We got outscored 25-11 in the second quarter. I’d like to see us improve in that regard and run an offense and be patient. We had way too many turnovers, and they turned those into points.”
For the Panthers, a lot of their turnaround can be attributed to 6-foot-7 Damonte Bailey. In the first quarter, he was limited to only six points. Then, in the second, he exploded for 10. He continued to be a force in the second half, where he added 14, and he finished with 30 points on the night.
Ponitz guard Malik Pooler complemented Bailey’s performance with 20 points of his own, creating a duo that was virtually unstoppable, and Bremigan was quick to give them credit.
“We had a hard time stopping 24 (Bailey) all night. He just killed us,” Bremigan said. “Their guards also hurt us with penetration, and it got to the point where we had to come out and get them.”
The Trojans still held onto a narrow lead at halftime, 42-41. However, like Bailey, Ponitz refused to slow down in the second half.
Bailey pulled up and hit a close-range jump shot to open the third quarter and give Ponitz its first lead. From there, the Golden Panthers relentlessly pulled away, and the Trojans had no answer. Troy was outscored 19-8 in the third quarter, and 17-9 in the fourth. In a game that started out ever so hopefully for the Trojans, the final score was not close, as they fell by 18 points, 77-59.
“We just panicked too much,” Bremigan said. “Maybe it was because we didn’t have too many guys in there that had been in that situation, but they’re a pretty good team, too.”
Leading Troy in scoring and rebounding was Stanaford, who had 16 points while pulling down seven boards for the Trojans. Owens finished with 13 points, Caillou Monroe contributed 11, including three 3s, and Tre’Vone Archie added nine. Caleb Fogarty hit two 3-pointers and finished with six points, while Jacob Martinez and Sam Shaneyfelt each had two points of their own.
It was the first time this season the Trojans have played on back-to-back nights, as they defeated Springfield Shawnee on Friday, 54-38. However, when asked if fatigue played a role against Ponitz, Bremigan dismissed the notion, saying he doesn’t want to use that as an excuse.
Now seven games into a 22-game regular season, the Trojans sit above .500 with an overall record of 4-3, and 3-2 mark in Greater Western Ohio Conference American League play.
They have achieved a majority of these wins with three players watching from the bench in street clothes while battling injuries, unable to contribute anything but support for their teammates.
“I see a group of guys who have ran into some adversity, with guys being out and so forth, and they’ve pulled together,” Bremigan said about his team.
“After tonight, I think we’ll pull together again.”