By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
BELLEFONTAINE — New Troy boys basketball coach Mark Hess knew he hadn’t seen the Trojans’ playing at their best after their first game of the year.
Which, given the outcome, is a very good sign of things yet to come.
After a back-and-forth first eight minutes at Bellefontaine, Troy took complete control, claiming a 12-point halftime advantage, building a lead as big as 25 early in the fourth quarter and coasting from there to hand Hess a convincing 74-58 victory over the Chieftains in his debut as the Trojans’ coach.
“It feels good, man,” Hess said of seeing Troy start 1-0. “Still, we won by 16, and I’m not ‘thrilled.’ Which is a good thing. And I know the boys aren’t, either. That’s a good problem to have, knowing we can be better and not being satisfied with what we did.”
It was also the Trojans’ first victory over Bellefontaine (0-1) in the last four years. Last season, the Chieftains won at Troy 65-62, the latest in a three-game winning streak over the Trojans.
Of course, Troy played that game without Shaeden Olden, who missed the first nine games of last season with an injury. And Friday night, the junior point guard made a big difference, leading all scorers with 19 points, hitting three of the Trojans’ eight 3-pointers on the night and adding five rebounds and three assists — even though he came out in the middle of the third quarter with a cramp and did not return for precautionary reasons.
“We played the last quarter and a half without Shaeden,” Hess said. “There could be a game later this year that, for other reasons, like foul trouble, maybe, that we have to play for a stretch without him. So it was good for us to get some reps. But in a first game, we’re still trying to figure out our roles, and we’ve got some other guys hurt that will be contributors when they come back. I just loved how hard we played.”
In the end, every Trojan that got onto the floor scored in the game, with only one other player — Jaden Owens and his 13 points, three 3s and three assists — getting into double digits.
“When we talked about establishing our identity, the kids talked about brotherhood and toughness. And I really thought we came out and played with some toughness,” Hess said. “We played with a lot of energy, and we played hard. We weren’t playing the smartest in the first half, but we played hard. And the guys really did a good job of picking each other up.”
Early on, Bellefontaine found ways to keep pace, with the lead changing hands five times in the first quarter and the Trojans holding a 16-14 edge after one. The Chieftains tied the score early in the second, but Troy went on a 12-3 run to go up 28-19 and eventually held a 38-26 lead at the break — with Olden leading the way with 16 of his 19 points.
Olden left the game with 3:39 remaining in the third quarter and Troy up by 17 at 50-33 — and the Trojans did not stop increasing their lead. Owens hit a 3, then Elijah Reynolds scored on a drive, stole the ball and hit a jumper at the buzzer to give Troy a 57-35 lead heading into the final quarter. A three-point play in transition by Landyn Henry gave the Trojans a 25-point lead at 60-35, and Troy still held that lead at 64-39 before Bellefontaine went on a 9-0 run to close the gap a little bit. Still, the Trojans closed the game out easily from there, with the closest the Chieftains got being 14 at 69-55.
After Olden and Owens, Andrew Holley added nine points and five rebounds, Henry had eight points and six rebounds and Tre Archie scored seven points. Hollis Terrell chipped in five points, Reynolds and Charlie Walker each finished with four, Austin Stanaford scored three and Conner Smith scored two. In the end, the Trojans forced 20 turnovers while committing only 10 and won the rebounding battle 32-31.
Brett Belser led Bellefontaine with 12 points and five rebounds, Maverick Calton scored 11 points, Declan Ashcraft had eight points and eight rebounds, with Hunter Warner and Jarrid Baughman each adding eight points and Garrett Gross scoring six.
“The kids are really invested. They have bought into what me and the coaching staff are trying to do here,” Hess said. “And I think you saw that tonight. They played hard and played with passion, and that’s stuff you can’t teach.
“For me, as a coach and a perfectionist, there were little things. But I’ll sleep better knowing how hard we played and knowing that this was a good building block for us.”
And Troy will get a chance to start building on Tuesday as it travels to Greenville to open Miami Valley League play.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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