By Luke Severt
For the Troy Daily News
TROY — According to Troy girls basketball coach Aaron Johnson, there’s a difference between playing hard and playing smart.
On Saturday afternoon, the Trojans (12-6, 9-4 Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division) played hard and went to overtime against the Butler Aviators (11-8) at home. However, they did not play smart — poor rebounding, mishandled screens, and over-anxious shooting, per Johnson — and the Aviators pulled away for a 47-44 victory over the Trojans at the Trojan Activities Center.
In each of the four quarters of regulation, neither team was able to outscore the other by more than two points in what was a highly competitive contest from start to finish. With under 10 seconds left to play in the fourth quarter, the probability of a Trojan win was seemingly high. Butler was forced to foul Troy’s MaKenna Taylor, sending her to the free throw line for a one-and-one for a chance to add to an already two-point lead and essentially end the game.
However, Taylor missed the first free throw, and the Aviators grabbed the rebound. After her team advanced the ball to the other side of the court, Butler head coach Molly Bardonaro called a timeout.
The two teams huddled around their respective coaches, knowing that their fates depended on one final play. The whistle blew, and the Aviators inbounded the ball to their leading scorer, senior guard Tyree Fletcher.
Fletcher drove down the right lane, causing everyone in the Trojan Activities Center to believe she was in pursuit of the basket and would attempt a layup. Instead, she pulled up and decided to shoot a mid-range jumpshot.
A silence overcame the well-attended crowd as the ball floated through the air, and as it fell perfectly through the net, the quiet was broken with Aviator roars and the sound of the buzzer. Regulation had ended, and the score was tied 41-41.
‘That was the plan,” Bardonaro said. “We wanted to get her the ball and have her take it one-on-one all the way to the basket, or pull up. That’s her shot, that’s her move.”
Fletcher sprinted over to her teammates and coaches on the bench, handing out high-fives with a smile on her face. On the other end, the Trojans were stunned — but not deflated.
“It’s an extra five minutes we get to play,” Johnson said about his mentality heading into overtime. “I honestly expected us to go up and beat them by seven or eight. We just hadn’t gotten into a groove, and I thought, ‘Okay, five minutes in this overtime gives us an opportunity to get into a groove,’ and it just didn’t happen.”
According to Bardonaro, her team’s approach to overtime was to work inside and only shoot layups while tightening up on defense. They were able to execute, as freshman Evan Neely scored the first points of the period with an impressive basket.
Troy’s Tia Bass was then sent to the line with an opportunity to tie the game, but capitalized on one of two chances.
After some back-and-forth play with no scoring, Butler guard Jacie Dalton was fouled and sent to the free throw line, where she hit two free throws to give the Aviators a three-point lead. After a miss by Troy freshman Macie Taylor and a Butler rebound, Dalton drew yet another foul, and again went a perfect 2 for 2 from the line.
It was now a five-point Butler lead, and despite two MaKenna Taylor free throws with one second left, the Aviators were victorious, by a final score of 47-44.
“I’m super proud,” Bardonaro said. “We had a rough December, figuring out who we were, and we’ve had a really awesome last month of basketball. They’ve really come together and accepted all their roles, and I’m really proud of them.”
It was a rematch of a Dec. 8 matchup, when the Trojans visited Butler and defeated the Aviators 51-35. This time, there were major GWOC American League North Division implications in play, and with the respective outcomes, both teams move into a tie for second place in the GWOC North. Tippecanoe clinched its third straight North title with a win earlier in the day, as it has won the division every year since joining the GWOC.
Bass led the Trojans with 15 points and 13 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season. In her impressive junior campaign, she currently leads the GWOC in rebounding and ranks within the top-10 in points per game. Sensational freshman Macie Taylor, who is currently second in the conference in points per game, had 13 on Saturday, while her sister, junior Makenna, had 10. Morgan Kaiser and Laura Borchers added four and two points respectively for the Trojans.
For the Aviators, Fletcher’s clutch basket accounted for two of her team-leading 10 points. She was matched by Abbie Schoenherr, who had 10 points of her own. Next were Dalton, Neely and Olivia Follick with six points each, while Megan Allen added four, Gracie Price had three and Ella Neely contributed two.
With only four games left to play in the regular season, Troy’s schedule is winding down, yet it is not slowing down. They’ll have a quick turnaround as they play Springfield Monday, before travelling to take on Tippecanoe on Wednesday. Then, just a few days later, they’ll host rival Piqua for Senior Day on Saturday, Feb. 9. Although it’s a heavy workload with little time for practice or rest, Johnson believes this aspect will be an advantage for his team.
“There’s not a lot of time to sit here and feel sorry for yourself or to pout, we have to get back out there in action in two days,” Johnson said. “I think it’s a great thing to have to turn around and play again.”
“The quickest way to erase this memory is to play and create another one.”