By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — With Troy’s girls basketball team leading Greenville by only four early in the fourth, coach Aaron Johnson found himself more relaxed than he’s been late in close games during most of his three-year tenure with the team.
At this point in the season, he knows what this year’s Trojans can do.
“We just have some young ladies that want to win,” Johnson said.
Troy freshman point guard Macie Taylor, the Greater Western Ohio Conference’s second-leading scorer, posted her fifth 20-point game of the year and second straight, Tia Bass recorded her fourth straight double-double despite being the focus of Greenville’s defense and the Trojans made plays when they counted late to pull away for a 49-35 victory over the Green Wave in GWOC American North Division play Saturday at the Trojan Activities Center.
With the win coupled with Piqua’s loss to Butler, Troy took sole possession of second place in the division at 11-5 overall and 8-3 in the North, two games behind 10-1 Tippecanoe. Greenville fell to 7-8, 5-6 in the GWOC American North.
And even though Greenville trailed only 35-31 with roughly five minutes to play and by five at 38-33 with three minutes to play, Johnson wasn’t nervous.
“The girls want to make things happen,” Johnson said. “Sure, we had some turnovers (16 in the game to Greenville’s 12). We’re still young. But when it comes down to crunch time, when we need either a defensive stop or to make a play, we tend to do that. In between, we didn’t grow the lead, but we sustained the lead, and when we needed to make a play or two or respond to a score by Greenville, we had that answer.”
And as both teams began their second run through the North, it was clear early on the Greenville was a different team than when Troy first played them — a 52-23 win in the third game of the season back on Nov. 28, 2018.
“Their point guard was out the first time, missed their first nine games of the season, and that’s like not having your starting quarterback,” Johnson said. “They are a totally different team with Morgan Gilbert running the point. And any time you go through the league a second time, it’s tougher to win games. There’s so much familiarity between teams so far as what we’re doing and what they know we’re going to do, and they do a great job with their gameplan.
“They tried to take Tia away. A lot of our offense, we try to get the ball running through Tia, and they totally denied her so we had to go to some different things.”
Bass, who had scored 20-plus points in back-to-back games coming in, still managed to put up 12 points and 14 rebounds on the night, with nine of those points coming in the first half to held Troy take a 29-25 halftime lead. Laura Borchers then gave the Trojans a boost in the third quarter, scoring six of her career-high eight points in the third to help the Trojans maintain a 35-29 lead heading into the final quarter.
“With our three-headed monster of Tia and the Taylors (Macie and MaKenna), it was great to see Laura Borchers step up and score,” Johnson said. “You want to take one post player away? Fine. We’ll run some offense to the other post, and Laura did a great job stepping up. And it’s good to see our team willing to share the ball.”
And when Greenville turned up the heat with a full-court press, Macie Taylor kept her composure and helped Troy pick it apart.
After a jumper by Hayleigh Mayo-Behnken cut the lead to 38-33 with three minutes to go, Macie Taylor beat the defense back down the floor for a coast-to-coast layup to give Troy some separation. She then hit Bass with a lob from half court on an in-bounds play for a bucket in the paint to make it a nine-point game. Greenville responded with a score from Natea Davidson to stay alive at 42-35 with 1:30 to play and then forced a turnover, but Bass grabbed a defensive rebound and got the outlet pass to MaKenna Taylor, who hit Macie Taylor for a fast-break layup and a foul. Troy missed the free throw, but Borchers grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked out to MaKenna Taylor for one of her three 3-pointers in the game, a five-point swing that made the score 47-35 with roughly one minute left and put it well out of reach.
“It was nice to see the way they reacted against the press late,” Johnson said. “I think they’re starting to understand that it doesn’t have to be 100 miles-per-hour — we took our time and looked for things. I thought we handled that pressure pretty well. And offensively, by the fourth quarter, I thought we relaxed and took advantage of what they were giving us. Numerous times, they double-teamed Tia, so we found Laura open or kicked it out for a 3, and it was good to see the way they shared the ball.”
Macie Taylor finished with 20 points, three assists and three steals, Bass had two blocked shots to go with her 12 points and 14 rebounds, MaKenna Taylor had nine points and four assists and Borchers had eight points and six rebounds.
Mayo-Behnken led the Wave with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Gilbert scored all eight of her points in the first half, Davidson had five points and five rebounds, Jada Garland had three points and Nyesha Wright and Annie Hayes each had two points.
“Greenville is a very well-coached team. They always play hard,” Johnson said. “This was a good win for the ladies. A very good win.”
Troy continues its second run through GWOC American North play by hosting Sidney Wednesday and Butler Saturday before hosting Springfield for a makeup game on Feb. 4.
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.