By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — In a matchup between the two most prolific individual scorers in the Greater Western Ohio Conference, Troy’s supporting cast took on a starring role.
Troy freshman Morgan Kaiser spear-headed a stellar defensive effort on Springfield sophomore Mickayla Perdue, the GWOC’s current leading scorer, and the Trojans’ second team kept the game close enough long enough for the big three of Macie and MaKenna Taylor and Tia Bass to get going as the Troy girls basketball team pulled away late for a 53-42 victory Monday at the Trojan Activities Center.
With the win, Troy improved to 13-6 on the season, the most wins the Trojans have had in a year since the 2011-12 season when they won 14 games. Troy also avenged two losses to Springfield (8-13) last year, including one that eliminated the Trojans from the sectional tournament.
And even though the game was billed as a matchup between Perdue, who led the GWOC with 22.2 points per game, and Troy freshman point guard Macie Taylor, who was second behind Perdue with 17.0 points per game entering the night, the difference proved to be the job that Kaiser and the Troy defense did on Perdue, who was held to only four points in the first three quarters and 10 on the night — 12 points below her average.
“Morgan Kaiser, that’s where I want to start,” Troy coach Aaron Johnson said when asked where to begin. “I’ve said this several times about Morgan being one of the most coachable kids I’ve ever coached. But you want to talk about a kid with heart and pride and guts, because that’s what defense is. It’s about the will to stop that person across from you. And I don’t want to take anything away from Perdue, because she is a heck of a player. But what Kaiser was able to do — and again, she had the help of her teammates — that was phenomenal. Just phenomenal.
“That was pure heart and effort and guts. I don’t think I took her out of the game. She played that way for all four quarters and never complained.”
And that proved to be huge, too, as with the score tied at 11-11 after the first quarter, the Trojans played the entire second quarter with the Taylor sisters and Bass on the bench, with Kaiser being the only starter that saw time in the quarter.
The Wildcats capped off a 10-0 run and led 16-11 midway through the second quarter, but Chamber Browning hit a free throw to end the run and then Lauren McGraw — who hadn’t played in the last five games after being injured at Trotwood — scored a putback to keep Troy within two. Springfield’s Trinity Morton-Nooks hit a 3 to extend the lead to five at 19-14, but McGraw and Browning each hit a pair of free throws to get the Trojans back to within one, and an Erika Innes jumper helped Troy stay within three at 23-20 at halftime.
“I tell you what, Chamber Browning stepped up, and Lauren McGraw and Payton Riley, wow. Those two had nine rebounds apiece, and Lauren was like a shot of adrenaline in the arm. We needed that,” Johnson said. “And Chamber, who typically doesn’t get a lot of varsity playing time, handled Springfield’s pressure and made some great plays, got to the free throw line and hit free throws. Clutch. Those girls were all clutch. That is what you call getting your opportunity and taking advantage of it.”
And in the second half, Troy’s first team came back in and got going.
A MaKenna Taylor 3 tied the score at 26-26 with 3:16 left in the third, and an offensive rebound and two free throws by Laura Borchers gave Troy its first lead since the opening quarter. The lead changed hands four more times in the quarter, with Macie Taylor drawing the defense’s attention with a drive and then dumping to Borchers for an easy bucket late to give the Trojans a 32-31 lead heading into the final quarter.
“We’re a young team, we’re going to make mistakes and we have to learn from that. And there are times you have to see it, and you learn better from looking at than being in it,” Johnson said. “Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back, take a look at what’s happening and then get yourself in there and produce. And it’s nice to do that when you have the Brownings and McGraws and Rileys to step in and fill that void.”
And from there, it was all Troy.
MaKenna Taylor sank a floater and Bass scored back-to-back buckets inside to give Troy a seven-point lead at 38-31, then Macie Taylor scored on a drive and hit a pull-up 3 later to make the score 44-32 Trojans. Troy led by as many as 17 at 50-33 after a Macie Taylor drive and kick out to MaKenna Taylor for another 3, and though Springfield’s pressure did force a number of late turnovers and allow the Wildcats to close the gap a little — with Perdue scoring three transition baskets in the final two minutes to help spur that along — the Trojans were able to hold on comfortably.
Macie Taylor led a balanced Trojan attack with 15 points — with nine of them coming in the fourth quarter — and added six rebounds, five assists and three steals. MaKenna Taylor finished with 13 points, Bass added nine points and seven rebounds, McGraw had six points and nine rebounds, Borchers had four points and six rebounds, Browning had three points, Innes had two points and Riley had one point and nine rebounds as Troy outrebounded Springfield 45-28 in the game. And Kaiser, though she did not score, had three assists, three rebounds and two steals while charged with guarding Perdue.
Morton-Nooks led all scorers with 23 points and seven rebounds and Perdue had 10 points, but from there the Wildcats simply could not match the Trojans’ team effort. Ty’Marah DeArmond added four points and six rebounds, Nieya Roberts and Jayla Huguely each had two points and Amaya Barnes had one point.
“We knew we needed to contain her,” Johnson said of Perdue. “You can’t stop her, but we wanted to contain her, and we wanted other people to beat us. Give Nooks credit — she stepped up. But as a team, we made a goal to contain Perdue. And we felt like if we contained her and didn’t give up second-chance opportunities, if we handled the pressure and didn’t turn the ball over, that we would be successful. And for the most part, we did that. And in the second half, it was good to see us actually execute a little bit offensively, too.
“This was one of the few times that we really had a team victory. Everyone stepped in and contributed. This was a team win.”
Troy travels to Tippecanoe to take on the GWOC American North leader then returns home Saturday to host Piqua on Senior Day.
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.