By Josh Brown
BRANDT — Troy managed to put all the pieces together at once — and even did one thing it hadn’t all season.
Bethel, meanwhile, failed to protect the basketball early on, and it proved costly.
All of that added up to the Trojans’ first win and Bees’ first loss of the season Monday night, as the Troy girls basketball team pulled ahead early thanks to its pressure defense and put the game away late from the free throw line in a 45-31 win at Bethel High School.
The game was all but decided in the first quarter, as Troy (1-4) forced 10 Bethel turnovers and started the game on a 12-0 run. Bailey Hess hit a 3 to start the game, then Sierra Besecker hit Stephanie Chavis for a transition layup to make it 5-0. Alexis Otstot then came off the bench and hit a jumper and 3 to make it 10-0, then Alaura Holycross stole the ball and hit her own putback to make it 12-0 and force a Bethel timeout with 3:24 left.
“We had a great start, getting out to a 12-0 lead,” Troy coach Nathan Kopp said. “I was proud of the girls’ effort. Getting some turnovers and some easy baskets off of them made things a lot easier.”
“A bad start,” Bethel coach Mark Mays said. “We cut down our turnovers in the second quarter, but they hit their free throws late to keep a little separation. Turnovers were the difference in the game.”
Becky Schwieterman and Alaina Hawthorn finally got the Bees (3-1) on the board with a basket each, but Otstot rattled in another 3 and Chavis scored on a putback, and Troy led 17-4 after the first quarter.
But Bethel was far from done, cutting its turnover numbers in half to five in the second quarter and chipping away at the lead with a 10-2 run, closing the gap to 22-14 at the break thanks to a bucket each by five separate players. Troy, meanwhile, only managed to connect on two field goals and a free throw in the quarter, leaving the Trojans looking for offensive production again.
Bethel got as close as six after a pair of Hawthorn free throws early in the third quarter, but Troy once again began to pull away. Hess hit a pair of free throws, Chavis hit one and Otstot hit her third 3 of the night to make it 28-16, then a putback by Hess made it 30-16. Buckets by Kayla Grable and Hawthorn cut the lead to 10, but Kiyha Adkins stole the ball and hit a pair of free throws, then a Jenna Kaup steal led to an Adkins layup on the break, and Troy carried a 14-point lead into the fourth.
Troy went 5 for 6 from the free throw line in the third quarter and 11 for 18 in the game — the first time all season the Trojans have shot better than 50 percent from the line.
“I liked the way, after how flat we played in the second quarter, we came out and played strong for the first four or five minutes of the third quarter,” Kopp said. “That was important. Bethel did a good job of not folding early after our good start, but for the first time this season we shot well from the free throw line, and that made it not a close game.”
“We fought back, and I like to think our defense had a lot to do with that,” Mays said. “We settled down on offense, too, and began running the things we were supposed to be running and not getting flustered, and that changed the complexity of the game.”
Alaura Holycross — who was forced to sit most of the game in foul trouble — scored eight of her 10 points in the fourth quarter to help put the game away. A pair of Schwieterman free throws kept the Bees within 14 at 42-28, but Besecker hit a pair of free throws and Holycross hit one in the game’s final minute. Hawthorn hit a 3 at the buzzer, but the game was long over by then.
Otstot led the Trojans with 11 points — eight of those in the first quarter — and Holycross added 10 points and four rebounds. Chavis had eight points, Hess had seven points, Besecker had four points and four assists, Adkins had four points and Kaup had one.
“Alexis has been getting a ton of minutes lately, and she’s produced,” Kopp said. “Alaura was in foul trouble tonight, but she and Stephanie produced well, too. Bailey Hess may be our most versatile kid and had a nice game, and everyone contributed in some form or another. It was an all-around team win.”
Bethel’s Hawthorn led all scorers with 12 points thanks to that final 3, while Courtney Schmidt and Schwieterman each scored six and Grable, Delaney Hardert and Emily Crase each had two.
Bethel outrebounded Troy 28-22, but the Trojans won the turnover battle 25-16.
“Alaina’s just a sophomore, but she has the ability,” Mays said. “She’s tall, athletic, she can jump and we can’t wait to see her take over a game. She can do it, with the supporting cast around her stepping up, too. You don’t like to lose, but we’re still a young team and learning the game. Turnovers were just the difference tonight.”
Troy returns home Wednesday to host West Carrollton, while Bethel hosts Mississinawa Valley Thursday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.