By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — A few short weeks ago, Troy senior Lauren McGraw thought her season might be over.
Turns out, the best was yet to come.
McGraw doubled her career high in scoring and posted her first career double-double on Senior Night against Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division rival Piqua — which had defeated the Trojans earlier this season on the road — leading the Troy girls basketball team to an impressive 57-44 victory over the Indians Saturday at the Trojan Activities Center.
McGraw — who suffered an injury in a game at Trotwood on Jan. 16, and whose return at all this year was questionable — made her way back into Troy’s lineup Monday against Springfield after missing five games. And on Saturday, she had the game of her career, putting the finishing touches on a double-double before halftime and finishing with a game-high 18 points and 14 rebounds.
“It’s funny. We weren’t sure if she was coming back this season, and I’d say she had one heck of a comeback tonight,” Johnson said.
“It feels good, because I wasn’t sure if I was going to play,” McGraw said. “I had a really good Senior Night, getting a double-double, and it just feels good.”
“Athletic, hard-working, even when she’s tired, she doesn’t play tired, tenacious defender and tenacious rebounder, and just an all-around outstanding young lady,” Johnson said of McGraw. “And she just found the ball. She’d grab the ball in times I didn’t know how she got to it.
“We talked to her at the start of the season about attacking the basket,” Johnson said. “We told her ‘Lauren, you can jump. Lauren, you have a quick first step. Lauren, you’re 5-foot-11. Attack the basket.’ It started clicking, and tonight it just exploded. She had a great, great game.”
And it was also a critical win for the Trojans, who improved to 14-7 on the season and finished 10-5 in GWOC American North play. Should three-time division champion Tippecanoe defeat Butler late Saturday night, the Trojans would finished tied with the Aviators for second place in the North.
It was also a bit of payback for Troy, which lost at Piqua 62-54 back on Dec. 19, 2018.
“After the last time we played them at their place, we got beat and it was really upsetting,” McGraw said. “Having them play here, especially on Senior Night, we wanted to beat them.”
And for Piqua, which fell to 13-8 on the season and finished 9-7 and in fourth place in the North, the difference between the two games was a simple one: shooting. In the first meeting, the Indians were 20 for 51 from the field and shot 33 percent from 3-point range. Saturday, Piqua only had 13 total field goals and was outrebounded 42-23 in the game.
“(We) couldn’t shoot,” Piqua coach Jon Dolph said. “We had plenty of opportunities where we were wide open, but we just couldn’t knock them down. It’s hard to win games when you can’t put them through the net.”
The Indians were also playing without a number of contributors from that first game thanks to injuries themselves, but according to Dolph, that’s just something everyone has to cope with.
“It’s that time of the year where we’re pretty banged up, but it is what it is,” he said. “This time of year, everyone has nagging injuries and big injuries, and you have to continue to battle on. But it definitely impacts how we play. It messes up your rotation and makes it difficult, but we’ll be alright.”
Coming into the game, the Indians’ plan was to take away Troy’s freshman point guard, Macie Taylor, who is the third-leading scorer in the GWOC and put up 22 points in the first meeting.
And while that plan worked — Macie Taylor didn’t score until the third quarter — the Trojans still remained in control the majority of the first half, leading 13-9 after one and 26-21 at the break thanks to McGraw’s 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“Coach Dolph did a nice job defensively. He kept two girls on Macie the entire time, and we just had to adjust,” Johnson said. “If they put two on Macie to take her out of the game, we’re going to play four-on-three. And that allowed Morgan Kaiser to score, that allowed Tia Bass to get some easy looks, as well.”
Despite struggling with foul trouble most of the game, Bass finished with 14 points, while Macie Taylor eventually fouled out with nine points and MaKenna Taylor finished with three points and four assists.
“Without them in the game, we needed someone to step up so we didn’t get too far behind,” McGraw said. “They’re usually our three leading scorers, so someone just had to step up.”
Kaiser, another freshman, finished with a career-high nine points and six assists and Laura Borchers added four points, five rebounds and three assists.
“We’ve talked this year about being a three-headed monster, with Macie and MaKenna and Tia. Tonight, we finally showed that if you want to take one or two of those heads away, we’ve got other young ladies that can step up,” Johnson said. “They’re understanding that if we stay within the frame of our offense and execute, you can take one or two pieces of that puzzle away but the others will step up. And that was nice to see.”
For Piqua, Karley Johns led the way, hitting three of the team’s six 3s on the day and finishing with 14 points, while Tylah Yeomans also posted a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Kenzi Anderson gave the Indians three players in double figures with 10 points, Reagan Toopes added five and Kelsey Bachman chipped in two.
Both teams will finish the regular season on Monday, with Troy traveling to Covington and Piqua hosting Bethel.
“We’ve got to come back and get on the practice floor,” Dolph said. “This has been a heck of a run where we played four games in six days. We need a little practice time to get back to doing some things we need to work on. We go right to a game Monday, but we’ve got a couple days before we see Springfield (in the postseason), so that’ll be good for us.”
And as the Trojans honored their four seniors — McGraw, Skylar Kirk, Erika Innes and Payton Riley, all of whom have found ways to contribute this season — McGraw made sure the night was a memorable one.
“It’s funny — this week in practice, she was asking what would be her favorite high school memory (for the Senior Night ceremony preceding the game,” Johnson said. “I’m pretty sure it’s tonight now. I think she made that memory tonight on Senior Night.”
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.