By Josh Brown
VANDALIA — After a flawless first quarter, Troy simply couldn’t get any breaks to go its way.
And Butler made big plays when it needed down the stretch to take advantage.
Bailey Hess scored 11 of her game-high 15 points in the first quarter, hitting two of the Trojans’ eight 3-pointers on the afternoon to stake Troy out to an 11-point lead. But the Aviators hung tough, putting three players in double figures and playing steady throughout to win a 44-36 Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division matchup Saturday at Butler.
Troy (5-8, 2-2 GWOC North) was red hot early, with Hess converting a four-point play and later a three-point play in the first quarter to give the Trojans a 12-4 lead. Hess then hit her second 3 of the quarter and, in the closing seconds, was fouled while attempting another 3, making one of those free throws to give Troy a 16-5 lead after one.
“I thought we played the best quarter we had all year in the first today,” Troy girls basketball coach Nathan Kopp said. “Bailey played well today, Maddy (Taylor) had seven rebounds and played well — I thought a lot of kids did. But then some of those shots that we going in didn’t go in later.”
After going 5 for 10 from the field in the first quarter, though, the Trojans went 1 for 9 in the second, with a 3 by Jenna Kaup the only shot that fell. Butler’s Abby Grooms took advantage, scoring eight of her team-high 12 points in the first half to cut Troy’s lead to 19-18 at halftime.
“We shot 8 for 14 from 3 today and 3 for 11 from 2. That doesn’t happen often,” Kopp said. “Some of our inside shots, the girls got good looks, missed some bunnies, and our shooting at the free throw line hurt us again. And losing track of Grooms hurt us also — she had a good game for them. Still, I think this was an even game, and we just didn’t get some things to go our way.”
Brittney Petrosky gave the Aviators (8-5, 2-1 GWOC North) their first lead since the opening basket with a layup on the third quarter’s first possession, and Shelby Moses hit a 3 to cap off a 13-point run and create a little separation. Sierra Besecker banked in second of her three 3s on the day to keep Troy close at 27-25, but Keonni Rakestraw later hit a 3 at the buzzer that made the score 32-25 Butler going into the fourth.
Three more 3-pointers, one each by Bailey Dornbusch, Alexis Otstot and Besecker allowed Troy to keep pace and stay within striking distance, and a drive by Hess made the score 40-36 with 1:10 to play. Moses missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving Troy a chance to draw closer — but a 3 by Hess rattled halfway down and popped out, Butler got the rebound and Moses made a pair of free throws to make it a six-point game with less than a minute to go, and Butler held on from there.
Grooms finished with a double-double for Butler with 12 points and 10 rebounds, helping the Aviators edge the Trojans on the boards, 26-21. Petrosky and Moses added 10 points each and Rakestraw scored eight.
Besecker scored nine points for Troy, while Kaup, Dornbusch and Otstot each added three. Kiyha Adkins had two points, two assists and two steals and Maddy Taylor led the Trojans with seven rebounds.
All told, Troy was 6 for 16 from the free throw line — including 3 for 11 in the second half — and turned the ball over only nine times, but with four of those on illegal screen calls on offense.
“We turned it over nine times — four on illegal screens. So five live-ball turnovers in a game? I’ll take that,” Kopp said. “We told the girls that they all played hard. We’ve got 11 girls, and we were subbing in and out trying to find matchups compared to what Butler had late. The kids played well, and I thought it was an even game. We just didn’t get some bounces.”
Troy returns home Wednesday for a showdown against undefeated GWOC North leader Sidney.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.