By Josh Brown
TROY — As the announcer read the Troy girls basketball team’s seniors’ favorite memories before Saturday’s Senior Night game against Piqua, one of them stood out — Bailey Hess’ 24-point game against the Indians last season.
“Their coach kept on saying ‘she’s not dropping 24 on us again.’ And I was just like, alright,” Hess, one of Troy’s three seniors, said. “I’ll just give the ball to my teammates. I’ve got teammates that can do it.”
And as a result, the Troy seniors — Hess, Jenna Kaup and Hadley Johnson — not only passed the torch to the younger Trojans, but they also created a few new memories to go out on.
Hess made a spectacular save on a ball going out of bounds near midcourt and hurled an unintentionally-perfect pass to freshman Tia Bass right under the basket for an easy layup to keep the Trojans in front early, and then with Troy protecting a two-point lead, Hess intercepted a pass in the closing seconds to ice a 39-37 victory Saturday at the Trojan Activities Center in both teams’ regular season finale.
With the win — one of six games Troy won by five or fewer points this year — the Trojans ended the season 10-12 and 5-10 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division, their first 10-win season since going 12-11 in 2012-13. Piqua, meanwhile, finished the year 3-19 and 1-14 in the GWOC American North.
But with the Indians still hanging around early and the game tied 8-8 after the first quarter, Hess made the first of her two clutch plays. A bad pass on the perimeter sailed over her head and looked to be headed out of bounds, but she made a leaping save to keep it in play, turned around in mid-air and launched it as far as she could … with Bass waiting in perfect position right under the basket for a layup to put Troy back in front.
“She’ll (Hess) tell you that she saw that, that it was a no-look pass — and I will tell you that we have not worked on that in practice,” Troy coach Aaron Johnson said with a laugh. “That’s that senior experience, a great heads-up play. You want to teach your kids to throw the ball towards the basket in that situation and hopefully something will happen, and lo and behold, Tia was right there. That was a great play.”
“Right, no, I’ve been practicing that. I stay 30 minutes after practice working on that,” Hess said with a smile. “I don’t know, I was just trying to save the ball, and luck was on my side — and it just ended up in Tia’s hands.”
“I was mostly thinking she was just going to throw it back in, that she wasn’t going to throw it to me,” Bass said. “Because Alyse (Holter) was standing right there, so I thought she was going to throw it to Alyse. I was not expecting that. So when it came, I was like ‘alright, my defender is leaving, so I’m just going to take this shot.’”
Bass had her best game of her freshman season, leading the way by scoring a varsity career-best 15 points and adding six rebounds, with eight of those points coming in the first half as Alaura Holycross — the hero of Troy’s win against Piqua earlier this season — was forced to sit out with foul trouble. Holycross finished with eight points and six rebounds, Kiyha Adkins scored 13 points, with both making clutch plays during Troy’s fourth-quarter rally to retake the lead.
That rally was necessary because Piqua’s Lily Stewart had a monstrous game, hitting seven 3-pointers and finishing with a game- and career-high 23 points, single-handedly keeping the Indians in the game.
“I looked at (assistant) coach (Kurt) Snyder before the game, and I said Stewart’s going to be on,” Johnson said. “I just had that feeling, and sure enough. She had a heck of a game, and we had a heck of a time trying to stop her. But I as proud of our girls for being able to respond to that. We made plays when we needed to, we made some clutch free throws when we needed to, and it was great to see young ladies step up.
“I thought Bailey, when she guarded Stewart, locked her down. Her defensive effort was outstanding. Alaura and Tia, when we got the ball inside to them, scored some crucial baskets — especially in that second half. And Kiyha, she looks like a bullet shot out of a gun sometimes when she’s going to the basket, and she just makes plays.”
Troy held a 20-17 lead at the half, but Piqua held the Trojans without a field goal in the third quarter, took a 27-24 lead going into the fourth and held an advantage as big as 29-24 early in the final quarter.
But the Trojans fought back.
Holycross found Bass open inside for a three-point play, then Jordan Short got the ball inside to Holycross for a game-tying basket with 4:15 to play. An offensive rebound by Short led to another Bass bucket in the paint to give Troy the lead and force a Piqua timeout with 3:05 to go.
Kelsey Magoteaux tied the score with a drive, but Adkins set up Bass for another layup to make it 33-31, then Holycross cashed in a steal with a layup to make it a four-point game. Holycross then hit a pair of free throws to make it 37-32 with 1:01 to go, Claire Went made it a one-possession game with a layup but Adkins answered by beating the defense the other way for a layup to make the score 39-34. Right one cue, though, Stewart drilled her seventh 3 of the game to cut the lead to two with 20 seconds to play, and Troy missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving the Indians one more chance.
But Hess intercepted a pass at the top of the key with roughly three seconds remaining and sent the ball sailing through the air toward Troy’s end of the court to kill the clock and seal the win.
“With three seconds left, just throwing the ball up — we’re hoping to God it wasn’t a shot — but it was a very heads-up play,” Johnson said. “And that’s what seniors are supposed to do. She’s a captain for a reason, and she made two great heads-up plays.”
“The coaches thought it was a really smart play to waste time … but I really was trying to shoot it,” Hess said with a laugh and smile. “But it did, it felt good to have the ball in my hands in the final seconds. I was kind of nervous, but we came together in the end.”
Hess finished with two points and two assists and Gabbi Johnson added a point for Troy.
Magoteaux and Tylah Yeomans each scored six points for Piqua and Claire Went added two.
“I told those three seniors that I’m so proud of how they bought into the system this year and the leadership they provided,” Johnson said. “They laid the foundation for, hopefully, when we become the program we want to be, people will look back and remember what they did, that first 10-win season in years, and Troy hasn’t looked back since.
“As a Troy senior, the last thing you want to do is lose to Piqua on Senior Day. It’s that rivalry game where everyone’s going to play their best. Hats off to Piqua, they did that. We just happened to make a play or two more tonight, and hats off to our team for being able to do that.”
The Trojans begin postseason play at 3 p.m. Feb. 18 at Butler High School against Xenia, looking for their first sectional tournament victory since the 2010-11 season.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.