By Josh Brown
TROY — Miami East girls basketball coach Bruce Vanover had a good idea of what to expect coming to Troy Saturday.
After all, he’s seen the Trojans play a lot this year — sometimes even on his off time.
“Living in Troy, I love basketball, so there’s been a couple times where I come over and just watch them play because I know some of the kids and enjoy watching them,” he said.
Saturday all of the homework paid off, as his Vikings jumped out to a big lead and, after the Trojans cut the gap down to only five early in the third, responded with an 11-4 run to close out the quarter and pull away for a 40-23 non-league victory over Troy at the Trojan Activities Center, allowing Miami East to head into the Christmas break on a four-game winning streak.
And Miami East (8-3) did it by limiting the chances for Troy’s fearsome post tandem of Alaura Holycross and Tia Bass.
“From the scouting report, my two biggest concerns were (Holycross and Bass),” Vanover said. “They just clean up the glass in every game that I’ve watched, so our focus was to keep them off the offensive boards. And I felt like we did a really nice job of that today, not letting them get those second-chance shots. I thought that was huge.”
And the Trojans (4-4) — who got a combined 23 points and 18 rebounds out of that duo in their last game, a 15-point win over Piqua — simply didn’t have an answer for the Vikings’ junior point guard Morgan Haney, who scored a game-high 17 points on the day.
“The last game went just the way we planned … this one was not the way we planned,” Troy coach Aaron Johnson said. “Haney is just one of the best players in the area. When we turned the ball over, she made us pay. I mean, her presence, her composure and how she runs that offense and runs that team … 17 points is what the scorebook says, but she’s responsible for all 40 points and countless turnovers from us. She has a very high basketball IQ. And, with all due respect she’s a pleasure to watch, but not to play against.”
Haney and Camryn Miller both hit 3-pointers during a 10-0 Miami East run to open the game, and another 3 by Miller at the first-quarter buzzer made the score 15-5 Vikings after one. But both teams struggled against the opposing defenses in the second quarter, with the Vikings building a 12-point lead at 19-7 before Troy’s Jordan Short banked in a long 3 at the buzzer to make it 19-10 at halftime.
“We knew they were going to walk the ball up and down the court and try to keep it a low-scoring game. That’s their goal,” Vanover said. “And in the last couple games, we’ve held teams to low point totals, so our focus was to play defense like we play defense, keep them low scoring and score enough to win the game. It wasn’t going to be an up-and-down transition game. They do a nice job of making you work for everything you get, and I thought our girls did a nice job of working at it, being patient and not getting in a hurry.”
But the Trojans kept their momentum going to start the third quarter. Bass scored inside on an in-bounds play to make it 19-12 and Valena Robinson scored on a putback to cut the deficit to only five — and the Trojans got the ball back with a chance to make it a one-possession game. But a costly turnover led to Kaitlyn Mack finding Haney open for 3 on the other end, the beginning of a 8-2 spurt by East that put the game out of reach.
“We just can’t let a team like Miami East get out to a 10-0 start,” Johnson said. “And the second quarter was kind of a wash. In the third, we came out, executed well, got some stops defensively and got some easy baskets. But in almost every crucial moment from there where we needed to execute or run a play, something would happen and we’d turn the ball over. And give a lot of credit to East. They put a lot of defensive pressure on us, and we didn’t handle the pressure very well.
“We’re still trying to get the young ladies to understand. When you’re in a game like that where you’re down and have an opportunity to cut it to a one-possession game, we go back to being quick but don’t hurry. And We’re still a little too impatient. We just get a little out of control and turn the ball over.”
Holycross scored inside to cut the lead to 27-18 late in the quarter, but Miller again drilled a late 3 to get it back to double digits at 30-18 heading into the fourth — and Troy got no closer than 14 points from there.
To go along with Haney’s 17 points — 10 of which came in the second half — Miller finished with nine points and six rebounds, with both players hitting three 3s apiece. Haley Howard added 10 points, going 6 for 6 from the free throw line, and six rebounds and Anna Jacomet and Mikayla Schaffner each scored two points.
Short led the Trojans with 10 points, Holycross added four points and nine rebounds and Bass had four points and seven rebounds. Robinson chipped in two points and five rebounds, MaKenna Taylor had two points and three assists, Dana Wynkoop had one point. On the day, Troy outrebounded Miami East 25-24 but went 3 for 11 from the free throw line and committed 20 turnovers to the Vikings 16.
Troy will return from the holiday break Wednesday at home against Fairborn — the fourth game of a six-game homestand.
“We just have to get better,” Johnson said. “We’re going to look at this tape, watch the things we did well and try to fix the things that we aren’t doing well — and it has a tendency to be the same things over and over. At some point, we have to get that fixed, and we don’t have a lot of time.”
Miami East, meanwhile, is off until Dec. 30 when it hosts Anna … with a bit of extra time off in between.
“The girls are really playing well, and it’s been a fun year with this group of girls. And they’re a very holiday-spirited group of kids. I told them before Thursday’s game was that if we won these next two games, we’d take an extra day off at the holiday break. And they wanted their extra day off,” Vanover said with a chuckle. “So they’ve got a little extra time with their families, and then we’ve got three days to prep for Anna.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.