By Josh Brown
TROY — With his team on a five-game losing streak and already trailing Celina 20-9 a mere 6:30 into Saturday night’s game, Troy boys basketball coach Paul Bremigan called timeout.
He wasn’t able to share the message he had for his team, though.
“Oh, I don’t know if it’s repeatable,” he said with a chuckle. “But it was rather animated.”
So senior Ryan McClurg performed one of the lesser-known duties as team captain — the coach’s anger translator.
“He said we needed to sit down and guard, to take pride in our defense,” McClurg said. “We can put up enough points to win, but if the other team gets 70 or 80, we’re going to lose. He just said we needed to play with more pride.”
In the end, Bremigan and his Trojans had plenty to be happy about.
Troy went on a 12-0 second-quarter run to take control and never lost the lead again as the Trojans (6-14) honored their six seniors by putting an end to their losing streak in a 63-52 victory over the visiting Bulldogs Saturday night at the Trojan Activities Center.
“It just comes down to wanting it,” Bremigan said. “Just wanting it. We came out in the first 6:30 and had given up 20 points already. What’s we give up the rest of the game? Only 32. The kids really did a good job on defense after that timeout.”
And every last one of the Trojans that saw the floor played a role in the win — particularly the seniors.
McClurg led the Trojans with 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists, fellow senior Zion Taylor added 10 points and four assists and Keenan Kinnel scored nine points. Hayden Kotwica finished with six points and four assists and Devon Larger had two points, with first-year senior Keaton Pfeiffer also contributing on defense during his time on the floor.
Zach Reichelderfer added 10 points — including eight during the Trojans’ second-quarter rally — Zac Boyer had six points and five rebounds and played a big role on defense, and Eli Palmer added five points, including hitting a big second-half 3.
“Ryan played a nice game, got to some loose balls and showed some toughness,” Bremigan said. “Zion played another good game, hit some big shots, and he’s been sharing the ball really well. Reichelderfer had 10 for us and played well, and Boyer only had six but did a good job on the boards and on defense.
“Those guys played really well. I thought everybody did.”
Early on, though, it appeared the team’s struggles would continue.
Kyle Flaute hit a pair of early 3s to give Celina (4-15) an early edge, but a baseline drive by Taylor kept Troy close at 11-9. Ryan Harter hit the Bulldogs’ third 3 of the quarter and kicked off a 9-0 run, though, a run that ended with a pair of Kyle Murlin free throws and put the Trojans down 20-9 — and forced Bremigan to call the fateful timeout.
“I mean, this was a must-win,” McClurg said. “We struggled against Butler (Friday night). After that timeout, everybody got a little fired up and came out with a little more energy, definitely.”
Troy held Celina scoreless for the final 1:30 of the first quarter and trailed 20-11, but Murlin continued to play strong in the second quarter. Three early buckets by Murlin in the second gave the Bulldogs a 28-20 lead — but that’s where the Trojans turned the tide for good.
Taylor hit Reichelderfer inside for a bucket, then Taylor scored a third-chance putback to cut the lead in half. McClurg then scored a putback in transition, grabbed a defensive rebound and hit Kinnel for a fast-break finish to tie the score at 28-28 with 3:06 until halftime. A steal and pair of free throws by Larger put Troy on top and a drive by Boyer made it 32-28 before before a bucket by Murlin finally ended the run, but a pair of McClurg free throws made the score 34-30 Troy at halftime.
Murlin led Celina with a double-double, 17 points and 12 rebounds — but 13 of those points came in the first half as Troy shut him down defensively the rest of the way. Harter and Lucas Hone each added 10 points, Flaute scored seven, Jimi Briand had six and Brett Schwieterman scored two.
“Murlin’s a good player, and we just didn’t guard him early on,” Bremigan said. “He hit shots, but we did a good job defensively on him in the second half.”
Celina got as close as 36-34 early in the third quarter, but Taylor set up a 3 by Kinnel, then McClurg fed Taylor for another 3 to put the Trojans up by eight. With the Bulldogs within six late in the quarter, Kotwica tossed a cross-court pass to an open McClurg for another 3, and a late jumper by McClurg made the score 52-41 Troy heading into the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs got to within seven at 59-52 after a three-point play by Murlin with 4:30 to play, but the Trojans did not allow the Bulldogs to score again and closed out the win from there.
For the game, Troy had 15 assists on its 20 field goals, all while turning the ball over only 11 times while forcing 22 Bulldog turnovers.
“That’s a little different from last night (against Butler) — we only had five on our 18 baskets,” Bremigan said. “You look at that ratio sometimes … and this group shoots the ball well. We’re shooting 44 percent from the field on the year. It’s just turnovers have been our nemesis. If we don’t turn it over, we’re going to be alright. And we forced 22? That’s something we haven’t done all year. Hopefully, this will help give the guys the confidence to be able to do that.”
The Trojans have two regular season games remaining: at home against Tippecanoe on Tuesday and at rival Piqua on Friday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.