By Josh Brown
TIPP CITY — The Troy girls basketball team was trying to fix what happened in the first half of the last meeting.
Tippecanoe wanted to spend the second half trying to fix what happened in the first half Wednesday night.
The Trojans — who fell behind by 23 points, 27-4, the first time they faced the Red Devils — only trailed by five at the break during the rematch Wednesday at Tippecanoe High School. But the Devil defense held Troy without a field goal in the third quarter to create some breathing room and then put the game away with a series of 3s in the fourth quarter, handing the Trojans a 43-22 defeat in Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division play.
Tippecanoe (18-3, 14-0 GWOC American North) had already locked up the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Division II sectional, but it still had plenty to play for — like error correcting, and improving heading into the tournament.
“Our focus this week and next is obviously to work on things we’ve been struggling a little bit on,” Tippecanoe coach Andy Holderman said. “We did accomplish some of those goals to get better defensively in the second half. On the offensive end, we had our woes at times. But good teams find other ways to win games, and we relied on our defense tonight. It was a good win for us.”
For the Trojans (9-12, 4-10 GWOC American North), the goal was to prove to themselves that they could hang with a team like the Devils despite what had happened the first time around, and they accomplished that, too.
“We watched tape of that first half, and I tried to point out some of the mistakes we made. I wanted them to see that we can fix some of those fundamental mistakes — and I thought we did that in the first half tonight,” Troy coach Aaron Johnson said. “I thought we executed offensively and we played well defensively. To hold a team of that caliber to 43 points, that’s an outstanding defensive effort. We just struggled to put the ball in the hole. We executed really well and got good looks, but those shots just didn’t seem to fall.”
Neither team was at full strength, either. The Devils were without senior Taylor Prall, while the Trojans were minus long-range shooter Jordan Short, and senior Jenna Kaup came off the bench after suffering an injury the week before.
“It’s that time time of the year,” Holderman said. “The season’s been grinding. There are going to be sicknesses and injuries. You just hope that you can use this next week and a half to get your players healthy and prepared. The ultimate goal is to make that tournament run, and you’ve got to continue to get better each game. That’s our focus.”
“We’re battling the flu right now, but Lauren McGraw, Lily Clouser and Velena Robinson came in and gave us some good minutes,” Johnson said. “And Jenna, coming off an injury from last Wednesday, fought through that pain and gave us some quality minutes, too. She toughed it out, and that’s what a senior does.”
Things didn’t get off to the best start for the Trojans, though.
Cali Stewart and Allison Mader hit back-to-back 3s to kick off the game, then a Mader fast break and pair of Brooke Aselage free throws made the score 10-0 Tippecanoe before Alaura Holycross scored on a drive with three minutes left in the first quarter to end the run. Tia Bass followed that with a bucket inside and Bailey Hess hit a pair of free throws to get Troy to within 10-6, but Mader answered with another 3. Kiyha Adkins scored on a drive to get Troy to within five at 13-8 after a quarter,
Neither team scored for half of the second quarter, but Holycross finally converted a steal and layup to get Troy to within three at 13-10 with 3:46 left in the half. Aselage scored a three-point play to make it a six-point game, which was where things stayed until a pair of Hess free throws made it 18-14, and Tippecanoe led 19-14 at halftime.
After more struggles offensively to start the third quarter, Claire Hinkle converted a three-point play and Stewart hit a jumper to make it a 10-point game at 24-14 midway through the third. Hess drew a foul on a 3-point try and hit all three free throws to keep Troy in the game, but Mader answered with a putback, a drive for a layup and a fast break to put the Devils up by 13 before a Troy free throw made the score 30-18 going into the fourth.
“It was just one of those nights offensively, and you’re going to have those,” Holderman said. “You’ve got to find different ways to score. Early on, we settled for the 3-point shot. Our first couple went in, but after that we got cold. The most important thing at that point was to find ways to get the ball to the basket, and I thought in the third and fourth quarter we did a much better job.”
Troy got as close as 10 after an early putback by McGraw in the fourth, but Aselage hit a pair of 3s and Mader canned another to give the Devils a 39-22 lead, and Tippecanoe put the game away from there.
Mader finished with a game-high 17 points and four rebounds and Aselage added 12 points to lead the Devils. Hinkle and Stewart scored five apiece, Chloe Schretzman had two points and seven rebounds and Hailee Varvel added two points.
Hess led the Trojans with seven points, going 7 for 9 from the free throw line in the game. Holycross had four points and seven rebounds, Bass had four points and five rebounds, Adkins chipped in four points and McGraw added three.
“It was one of those tough games where the girls are starting to see they can play with anyone,” Johnson said. “We’ve just got to find more ways to get the ball through the hole. The girls played hard, though. Their effort was outstanding.”
Both teams finish the regular season at home Saturday, with Troy hosting rival Piqua and Tippecanoe hosting a red-hot Butler team.
Other scores: Greenville 48, Piqua 23.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.