By Josh Brown
PIQUA — On the Piqua girls basketball team’s Senior Day, it was a Troy senior that ended up hitting the key shot.
The Trojans scored the game’s first 18 points and shut the Indians out in the first quarter, but in true Troy-Piqua fashion, the Indians rallied and got to within five points with 3:37 left in the fourth quarter. But Troy’s Jordan Short came up with a loose ball as Piqua attempted to make a steal and canned a key 3-pointer to give the momentum back to the Trojans, and they held on from there for a 48-37 victory Saturday at Piqua High School.
For Troy, it was a particularly big win — aside from the fact that it came against rival Piqua. It guarantees that the Trojans will finish the season with a winning record, as they improved to 12-10 overall and 9-6 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division. It’s Troy’s first winning season since the 2012-13 season.
“That’s one of the things we talked about all week. This guarantees that we’ll finish above .500,” Troy coach Aaron Johnson said. “Piqua-Troy is a special game in itself, but for our program, it meant a lot so we could have that winning season.”
But Piqua (7-15, 4-11 GWOC American North) didn’t make it easy, closing to within five at 38-33 after a Tylah Yeomans bucket in the paint. The Indians then knocked the ball loose in an attempt to steal it on the other end … only to have Short scoop it up and pull up for a back-breaking 3 to give the Trojans an eight-point lead with 2:30 remaining.
“I’ll tell you what, (assistant) coach (Kurt) Snyder and I looked at each other and said I’m not sure what the outcome of that game is if Jordy doesn’t hit that 3,” Johnson said. “That was a gutsy, senior shot. There’s no one else in our program that I’d want to take that shot, and when she took it, I love the confidence she shot with. That’s why she’s a senior captain.
“That turned the tide. If we miss that shot and they go down and score, who knows what the outcome is. But she made it, and I think it was the nail in the coffin, gave us confidence and took the wind out of Piqua’s sails.”
“It just takes so much energy and work to get a lead like that down,” Piqua coach Brian Gillespie said. “All it takes is one made shot. Basketball’s a funny sport, and momentum means a lot.”
Troy had all of the momentum early on, with Tia Bass scoring nine first-quarter points to help the Trojans take a 16-0 lead after one. The Trojans also got the first basket of the second quarter, going up 18-0 before Piqua finally got on the board.
“I’ll be honest, I kind of hate Senior Day,” Gillespie said. “And not because I don’t love my seniors — (Lauren Williams, Kelsey Magoteaux, Emily Powell and Lily Stewart) are four of the greatest kids I’ve ever worked with. It’s just the emotions, and especially double that with playing your No. 1 rival. We were just overhyped and got ourselves in a big hole. I think we got ourselves so excited that we made ourselves tired after two possessions.”
But the Indians kept it going after that, keeping pace by trailing 26-13 at halftime and 36-23 heading into the fourth. And a 10-2 run to begin the final quarter cut the lead to only five — the closest Piqua would get.
“We came out focused and intense,” Johnson said. “I mean, a 16-0 start. But that being said, I don’t think we lost focus so much as Piqua turned it up a bit. There’s a lot of fight in that Piqua program, and on Senior Day, being down 16-0, they responded the way good teams should. They responded the way a Troy-Piqua rivalry should go.”
“We got our feet under us and just kept playing,” Gillespie said. “I told the girls just to try to handle the ups and downs. I can’t ask for more from my seniors, or for that fact from Tylah Yeomans. She’s been out all year — I haven’t had her since game No. 2. She played last Saturday at Sidney to get her feet under her, but you can see her potential.”
After Short’s clutch 3, though, the Trojans maintained control. Short hit a pair of free throws to make it a 43-33 game with 1:21 to go, and even though Piqua got back to within nine at 46-37 after a Kelsey Bachman drive with 21.1 seconds left, Troy closed out the win from there.
The Trojans had three players in double figures, with Short leading the way with 14 points, four rebounds and four assists. The post tandem of Bass and Alaura Holycross both posted double-doubles, Bass with 13 points and 12 rebounds and Holycross with 10 points and 11 rebounds. McKenna Taylor had three points, Valena Robinson had two points and six rebounds and Dana Wynkoop, Laura Borchers and Kiyha Adkins each had two points.
Yeomans led the Indians with 14 points, Stewart scored nine, Magoteaux had five points, seven rebounds and seven steals, Bachman had four points, Skylar Sloan scored three and Williams added two.
“We didn’t stop. My kids just never stopped,” Gillespie said. “I’m forever proud of them. They showed a lot about their character today, and I’m proud of them.”
Piqua has a bye in the first round of the sectional tournament, opening play on Feb. 21 against the winner between Centerville and Stebbins. Troy, meanwhile, has a first-round game Feb. 17 at Butler against Springfield, a team it lost to earlier in the season.
“It’s nice to guarantee that winning season, but like last year, we don’t want to just play one game and be done,” Johnson said. “We’re fortunate to play someone familiar, but at the same time it’s not always a good thing. We lost 32-29, but it’s one of those games where the girls thought we could have played better than we did. And hopefully we can next Saturday.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.