By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — Troy girls basketball coach Aaron Johnson knows that, with so many games in rapid succession, there simply isn’t enough time to fix everything at once.
“We’re not going to cure the whole thing in one day,” he said. “We’ve got to pick one thing to work on, this or that.”
Tuesday night, the Trojans showed the progress they’d made on the defensive end of the floor, limiting Fairborn’s chances and getting a big night from Tia Bass inside to help put away a 43-33 Miami Valley League crossover victory at the Trojan Activities Center, Troy’s third straight win overall.
Troy improved to 4-3 overall with the win and 3-1 in the MVL Miami Division, while Fairborn fell to 1-5 and 1-3 in the MVL Valley Division.
And the Trojans did it with defense, too, holding a slim 8-6 lead after the first quarter, building that advantage to 20-12 at halftime and effectively putting the game away by only allowing the Skyhawks to score three third-quarter points.
“I was really pleased with our defense. They had 15 points going into the fourth quarter,” Johnson said. “To hold a team to 15 points in three quarters, I was really proud of our defense. I thought we could have rebounded a little better, but we did a solid job.
“(Fairborn’s Natalie) Octavec averages 20 points a game, and she had 11 of that 15. Laura Borchers played her butt off. She guarded and guarded and guarded. Defensively, I thought we did a nice job.”
And while Octavec, the MVL’s leading scorer, averaging 20.6 points per game entering the night, did end up leading the Skyhawks with 19 points and five rebounds, she was forced to do most of that work from the free throw line, going 13 for 15 on the night as Fairborn was 16 for 21 as a team from the line. Thanks to the Troy defense, though, the Skyhawks only hit one fourth-quarter 3-pointer — the only long-range basket for either team on the night — and simply couldn’t convert on fast breaks, blowing three transition layup tries in the first half and two more in the second.
Troy, on the other hand, was able to convert its free throws early, going 6 for 9 as a team in the first half to help claim the lead. The Trojans, shooting 56 percent from the line on the year, were 13 for 23 in the game — led by Bass, who was 7 for 8 from the line en route to a 21-point night to lead all scorers, adding 13 rebounds to post a third straight double-double.
“I thought we were better from the free throw line tonight,” Johnson said. “We’ve been working on that. So now we’ve got to find something else to keep working on. We keep finding little pieces to get better at. It’s just a matter of having enough time to get all the pieces together and look good.”
Other than Bass, though, it took a while for the Trojans to get going offensively, as the team went 0 for 12 from 3-point range in the first half. Bass scored 10 of the team’s 20 first-half points, but the Trojans still held the lead.
“Offensively, it’s that phrase I continue to use, a lack of execution,” Johnson said. “We’d get into a play and then try to do something instead of run the play through. I don’t think we totally understand it yet, so we just have to keep going through it a little bit.”
In the second half, though, sophomore point guard Macie Taylor got going by creating chances for her teammates. Time after time, Taylor cut into the Fairborn defense on the drive, and when the defenders left their own people to keep her from getting to the basket, Taylor dumped off to either Bass or Brynn Siler for easy buckets in the paint, and Troy blew its lead up to 28-15 heading into the fourth.
Taylor finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists, Siler had seven points and five rebounds and Elise McCann and MaKenna Taylor had two points each on the night.
“I thought Tia did real well in the post,” Johnson said. “Brynn is starting to become a factor, too, and it’s good to see her mature. She’s getting more comfortable out there. And Macie, it was great to see her distribute. She draws the defense, and it just collapses around her. And she has the vision, so when she starts dropping dimes, as she says, it’s just going to elevate her game to the next level, because now they can’t focus on her and double-team her because she’s going to find the open player. She did a great job with that tonight. We just have to finish.”
After Octavec, Cassidy Mustard and Jodee Austin each had five points and Miyu Williams scored four. Jasmine McMoore had nine rebounds for the Skyhawks as Troy outrebounded Fairborn 42-33 in the game, with the Skyhawks winning the turnover battle 24-19.
Troy travels to Butler Wednesday to face the MVL Miami Division co-leader, then it hosts MVL Valley Division leader Sidney on Saturday.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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