By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — Everything went according to plan for the Troy girls basketball team.
Oddly enough, even over the course of the first three quarters when Stebbins stubbornly kept itself in the game with its best 3-point shooting night of the year.
In the end, though, Troy freshman point guard Macie Taylor did enough damage despite being the focus of the Indian defense, and the rest of the Trojans gave key contributions throughout, especially in the fourth quarter to help the team pull away for a 46-39 Greater Western Ohio Conference American League crossover victory Wednesday at the Trojan Activities Center.
Stebbins, only roughly a 20-percent 3-point shooting team so far this year, hit a season-high nine 3-pointers in the game to stay in contention throughout, including keeping the score tied at 34-34 with six minutes to play and being within three at 40-37 with less than three minutes to go. But the Trojans (8-4, 5-2 GWOC American North Division) still found a way to put it away.
“I’ll probably sound like an idiot for saying this after that, but our gameplan coming in was to make them shoot 3s,” Troy coach Aaron Johnson said. “But credit to them, they made made some shots. They made them, and we had to adjust. And I have to give our young ladies in the locker room credit, too — they played good defense and got some stops, and the biggest thing, in all honesty, is that we eliminated Stebbins’ second-chance opportunities. I thought we rebounded the ball much better in the second half and kept them from getting second-chance opportunities.
“Defensively, they ran a triangle-and-two, a box-and-one, a two-three, and ran man against us, and I thought our girls executed well at times. We didn’t shoot the ball exceptionally well, but we found a way to win. We found a way to execute in the clutch.”
After holding a slim 14-13 edge on the boards at halftime — and a slim 24-21 lead on the scoreboard — Troy outrebounded Stebbins (3-9, 1-5 GWOC American South Division) 35-21 in the game despite the fact that center Tia Bass was forced to sit most of the first three quarters in foul trouble. Taylor finished with a double-double with a game-high 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Lauren McGraw stepped up with Bass on the bench, narrowly missing a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds.
MaKenna Taylor hit three first-half 3s and finished with 11 points, four rebounds and four assists, Bass finished with six points, four rebounds and three blocked shots and Laura Borchers had two points.
Bass, in particular, came up big in the fourth. The No. 2 leading scorer in the GWOC American North behind only teammate Macie Taylor, her first points of the game came with 3:40 to play to give Troy a six-point lead at 40-34, and she had two more clutch buckets in the paint to ensure Troy always had a two-possession lead in the game’s closing moments.
“If you would’ve told me Tia doesn’t score until three minutes to go the fourth, I would’ve said we’d be down 20. But that just says a lot about the other girls,” Johnson said. “MaKenna Taylor, what a great game for her. She made some shots, played under control. I thought Laura Borchers did a nice job offensively and defensively, and Lauren McGraw, she stepped up, grabbed some big rebounds and made some great passes and plays.
“I think we’re getting to that point where the young ladies are understanding that it’s team effort. We’ve talked about being a three-headed snake before, with Macie and MaKenna and Tia, and teams are going to try to take away one of them. And we showed ourselves tonight that you can take one of those away and other people will step up.”
The Indians did everything they could to take away Macie Taylor, too, but it simply didn’t work. The No. 2 leading scorer in the overall GWOC, she was steady all night despite being the focus of the defense, scoring nine points in the first half and nine more in the second to ensure Troy never panicked despite Stebbins’ scrappiness.
“What I like best about Macie’s game is that she’s starting to recognize and accept the triangle-and-twos and boxes-and-ones. As a freshman, that’s tough,” Johnson said. “She’s playing with that mentality that she’s going to get her opportunities and looks, and she’s realizing that she doesn’t have to make things happen. We’ll find her and get her the ball, and she’ll find ways to score.
“It’s a heck of a compliment as a freshman to come in night after night and week after week and see a box-and-one or triangle-and-two. It’s a credit to her and to the girls that are making sure to get her the ball when she’s open.”
Korina Murphy hit three of Stebbins’ nine 3s and led the Indians with 15 points as six different Stebbins players hit shots from beyond the arc on the night. Shelbie Morgan added eight points, Kristine George had five points, Sophia Coaston, Olivia Newlin and Haylee Gunter each had three points and Kennedie Lingg had two points and a team-high five rebounds. Stebbins won the turnover battle 14-12 in a game that featured eight lead changes — but with the Trojans never losing the lead in the fourth — and four ties.
The win was the third straight for the Trojans after a three game losing streak, while Stebbins dropped its third straight.
Next up for Troy is an interesting non-league matchup against Springfield on Saturday. The Trojans lost a pair of games to the Wildcats last season, including once in the postseason, and it will put the GWOC’s top two scorers against each other in Troy’s Macie Taylor (17.6 points per game) and Springfield sophomore Mickayla Perdue (19.2 points per game).
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.