By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — In the battle for the Metro Buckeye Conference lead, things didn’t begin well for the Troy Christian girls basketball team.
The ending didn’t go as planned, either.
Legacy Christian began the game on a 7-0 run and, after the Eagles battled back in the third to take their first lead of the game, finished that quarter on another 7-0 run to retake control as Troy Christian fell 41-28 Monday night at home in a matchup between the MBC’s co-leaders.
“Their two runs, at the beginning of the game 7-0 and the end of the third quarter 7-0, were the difference in the game,” Troy Christian coach Tony Ferraro said. “We missed shots that we normally make. We missed five shots at the beginning of the game and six shots at the end of the third, and in all of those cases, those are shots that were open, and we just didn’t put the ball in the hoop.
“Sometimes you’ve got to give the opponent credit. They played good defense against us, and they held us to only 28 points. Give Legacy a lot of credit for the way they played.”
Both teams entered the game hot, as well as tied atop the league standings with matching 5-0 records. Troy Christian (9-2, 5-1 MBC) had won five straight coming in, while Legacy Christian had won nine straight, including an 80-28 win over Miami Valley in which the Knights (11-1, 6-0 MBC) hit 21 3-pointers, missing the state record for 3s in a game by only one. The Knights were averaging more than 56 points per game and had the top offense in the MBC — but the Eagles had the league’s top defense, only allowing 29.1 points per game coming in.
“In their last game, they made 21 3s. We had a good defensive game,” Ferraro said. “When you’ve got a team averaging near 60 points a game and you hold them down to 41, the defensive end was fine. It was the offensive end that we needed to improve upon tonight, and we missed our opportunities. I thought we had good looks, and you’ve got to be able to put the ball in the basket in big games, and we obviously did not tonight.”
Legacy was able to find the holes in the Eagle defense early on, though, with Maddy Combs hitting the game’s first basket, Emma Hess sinking a 3 and then Hess finishing a fast break after a steal by Combs to make the score 7-0 and force a Troy Christian timeout with 5:56 left in the opening quarter. Lexi Salazar got the Eagles on the board, though, and Sarah Earhart hit a jumper — and the defense held the Knights to only a 3 by Emily Riddle in the rest of the quarter, trailing only 10-6 after one.
A steal by Cara Salazar and a tough finish by Lexi Salazar on the other end got the Eagles to within four at 19-15 late in the second quarter, but Sarah Johnson — Troy Christian’s freshman center and leading scorer entering the game — went down with an injury and did not return, and the Knights held a 21-15 lead at halftime.
“It was a big injury that took away our inside presence,” Ferraro said. “More often than not, they didn’t have an answer for her inside. But when she went down, I think that sparked Legacy. We’re not making excuses, though. They just played good enough to beat us.”
The Eagles began the third strong, holding the Knights scoreless for the first 5:45 of the second half. During that time, Troy Christian scored seven unanswered points, with a jumper by Earhart giving the Eagles a 22-21 lead with 2:35 to go in the quarter.
But Kathleen Ahner hit a 3 to give the lead back to Legacy, and Hess hit a layup and a pair of free throws to close out the third on a 7-0 run and give the Knights a 28-22 lead heading into the fourth. And in the final quarter, the Eagles simply couldn’t get shots to fall, going 3 for 14 from the field as Legacy put the game away.
Earhart had eight points and Erin Schenk scored six to lead Troy Christian, which was 11 for 40 from the field and went 0 for 3-point range on the night. Cara Salazar had four points and 11 rebounds, Morgan Taylor had four points and seven rebounds, Lexi Salazar had four points and Johnson had two points and five rebounds as the Eagles outrebounded the Knights 33-24.
Hess had a game-high 20 points and hit two of the Knights’ four 3s on the night to lead the way. Ahner added 11 points and five rebounds, Riddle had seven points, Combs had two points and six rebounds and Margaret Kensinger had one point as the Knights won the turnover battle, forcing 13 while committing eight.
The two teams will meet again on Feb. 7 at Legacy Christian. Last season, Troy Christian lost 40-22 on the road and then defeated the Knights 42-39 in overtime in the second meeting to earn a share of the MBC title alongside Legacy Christian.
“We’ll get another shot at them later in the year at their place,” Ferraro said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to give the other team credit. They played well, and their kids made a lot of key shots.”
Up next for the Eagles, though, is a game at Middletown Christian on Thursday, while Legacy Christian returns home Saturday to host Yellow Springs.
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.