By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — After two years with the team, Troy girls basketball coach Aaron Johnson isn’t used to seeing what he saw Wednesday night at this point in the season.
“I think we’re improving, and I’m not sure that, in my tenure, we’ve improved after game No. 15 or 16,” Johnson said. “But that’s what I’m seeing, and that’s a credit to the young ladies and their ability to focus and buy in and them wanting it.”
MaKenna Taylor hit four of the Trojans’ five third-quarter 3-pointers as Troy tinkered with its tried-and-true formula against a Sidney team that has also improved since the first meeting between the two rivals, turning what was a four-point game late in the first quarter into a 28-point rout in a 54-26 Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division victory Wednesday night at the Trojan Activities Center.
With the win, Troy improved to 12-5 overall — equaling last year’s win total, which was already the most wins in a year since the team won 14 games in the 2011-12 season, with five regular-season games still to play — and remained in second place in the GWOC American North at 9-3, two games behind division leader Tippecanoe.
“We’re hoping somebody else has the ability to knock off Tipp again and then we’re hoping that we can beat Tipp and somehow manage a three-way tie for the division,” Johnson said. “Before that can happen, we had to win tonight and we have to win on Saturday. We have to take care of business first. And we still have goals we’re shooting for — hopefully this win will boost our tournament seeding-wise, going in at 12-5.”
And taking on Sidney, which fell to 0-18 and 0-12 in the division, the Trojans saw an opportunity to build on what they’ve already done and try some new things — but the Yellow Jackets were also a different team than the first meeting, when Troy only allowed eight points after three quarters in a 56-22 win back on Dec. 5, 2018.
The Jackets kept pace with Troy early on, scoring more in the first quarter Wednesday than in the first three quarters in that first meeting, with a jumper by Sam Reynolds cutting Troy’s lead to 13-9 late in the first quarter. But Morgan Kaiser got the ball inside to Tia Bass for an easy basket and MaKenna Taylor hit Kaiser for an open jumper to give Troy some separation after one at 17-9.
Troy continued to pull away in the second quarter despite Bass having to sit down with foul trouble. After another bucket by Reynolds cut the lead to five at 17-12, MaKenna Taylor hit a 3 and Macie Taylor scored six of her game-high 18 points in the quarter, helping the Trojans build a 28-14 halftime lead.
“We had more of a specific gameplan looking at getting to the third or fourth level of our offense. We typically don’t get to that point in our offense,” Johnson said. “That was part of our focus today, so there’s some unfamiliarity with it. And I think Sidney has gotten better. They didn’t hit near as many shots the first time we played them, and she’s got them playing better and playing harder. But in the second quarter, we were able to settle down a little bit, and the defense helped us get some easy baskets.”
And in the third, all of the new things that Troy was trying began to work.
MaKenna Taylor hit a 3 then set up a 3 by Macie Taylor to start the quarter quick, then Bass kicked out to MaKenna Taylor for another 3 to make the score 37-14 and force a timeout by Sidney with 6:12 still remaining in the third. Bass then scored in the paint before picking up her third foul, but then her replacement Payton Riley kicked out to MaKenna Taylor for yet another 3, Kaiser found MaKenna Taylor open for her fourth and final 3 of the quarter and Macie Taylor then hit MaKenna Taylor for a fast-break finish to make the score 47-14 before Sidney final scored again, capping off a 23-0 run by the Trojans.
“We came out in the third quarter, and that was something new we put in with the inside-out ball movement and Tia kicking it out to shooters,” Johnson said. “MaKenna had four 3s, and it was good to see that kind of explosion. We’re preaching the inside-out game against the zone, and I think Tia is able to draw so much attention that she’s able to look and find shooters.
“We still have some work to do. We came in with a different type of gameplan trying to improve on certain aspects of our offense, and I think the girls did a nice job of doing that. It was really evident in the third quarter.”
Troy led 51-18 after the third, having pulled its starters out with 1:30 left in the quarter, and the Trojan backups closed out the win in the fourth.
Macie Taylor, the GWOC’s second-leading scorer, led the way with 18 points and two assists, while MaKenna Taylor scored a career-high 18 points while dishing out five assists and Bass added eight points, five rebounds and three assists.
“For MaKenna, I said ‘welcome back,’” Johnson said. “I think this will be one of those games to fuel her fire. She’s one of those scorers that, to get going, needs to see the ball go through the basket. And she saw that quite a bit tonight. I think this will be the beginning of an onslaught by her.
“Macie and MaKenna were looking for each other. They’re a great duo, a great tandem. And Tia, looking at her assists, she could have easily done a post move and scored on those. But our focus was that we know the things we can do, so let’s try to do some things a little different. Tia did a great job of drawing that double-team and finding open shooters, and she made some great passes.”
Kaiser had six points and four assists, Riley and Chamber Browning each had two points and Caitlyn Hutson scored one point.
“Morgan did a very nice job offensively and defensively,” Johnson said. “She just continues to get better. She’s the person you love to coach because she does everything you ask of her.
Reynolds led Sidney with 13 points and five rebounds, Cassidy Truesdale had four points, Kelsey Kizer and Emma Wiford each had three points, Hallie Truesdale scored two and Ranaya Conrad had one.
Troy now hosts Butler Saturday and then hosts a makeup game Monday against Springfield, a rematch of last year’s season-ending tournament loss, before traveling to Tippecanoe on Feb. 6.
“Usually, at this point in the season, they’re just kind of coasting through,” Johnson said. “And that 12-5 record, it’s a credit to them. They’ve put the time in, they’ve put the work in, and they want it. It’s fun to coach a group of young ladies that are this hungry.”
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.