By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
TROY — After only scoring one point in the second quarter — even after the night’s leading scorer fouled out with 4:43 to go and the Eagles down by six — the Troy Christian girls basketball team found a way.
Undefeated teams tend to do that.
Morgan Taylor made two huge defensive plays in the final 15 seconds — a steal that led to the go-ahead basket by Sydney Taylor and then a blocked shot and steal on a potential game-winning 3-point try by Greenon’s Reagan Ware — propelling unbeaten Troy Christian to its eighth straight win to start the season, a thrilling 37-35 come-from-behind victory Thursday night at the Eagles’ Nest.
With the win, Troy Christian improved to 8-0, while Greenon — which defeated the Eagles 47-32 last season — fell to 6-2.
“The kids did such a good job. That is a good ball club,” Troy Christian coach Tony Ferraro said. “They were 6-1, and they beat us by 15 at their place last year. So we knew coming in just how good they are.”
It was the third straight barnburner for the Eagles, who defeated defending Metro Buckeye Conference champion Legacy Christian 34-33 back on Dec. 19, 2019, and then held off New Bremen 44-41 two days after that.
“We have had this gauntlet where we play Legacy Christian, New Bremen and Greenon — combined record on 18-4 or so — and we knew what we were going into,” Ferraro said. “The last three wins have been big. We played a team that was 5-2 and state ranked, 7-1 and state ranked and now 6-1 and should be state ranked.”
And Thursday night, Greenon was as good as advertised, too — particularly in the first half.
Troy Christian held an 8-5 lead after the first quarter thanks to a buzzer-beating layup by Sarah Johnson. But Greenon held the Eagles to only one free throw by Johnson in the second quarter, closing the half on a 7-0 run to take a 15-9 lead at the break.
“I’m going to give them credit. They really set down the gauntlet in the second quarter,” Ferraro said. “They put defense on us that we haven’t seen all year long. They were overplaying us, making us throw the ball into their passing lanes, so at halftime my whole talk was that we had to change our whole offense, to adjust what we did. And in the second half, I thought we did a great job moving the basketball — because in the first half, they took away everything that we’ve practiced for two weeks.”
The Eagles adjusted in the third quarter, but the Knights kept pace on their own end to hold a 29-25 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The return of Johnson — who sat most of the second quarter in foul trouble — was a big factor in that, as she scored six points in the third to kick-start the Troy Christian offense.
“In the second half, we changed our whole offense, and our kids really follow instruction well,” Ferraro said. “They listened when we changed things, they understood — I couldn’t be more proud of them in that second half.”
But with 4:43 remaining in the game and Greenon up by three, Johnson fouled out, leaving the Eagles without their primary weapon. To make matters worse, Claire Henry drilled a 3-pointer the following possession, and the Knights led 35-29 midway through the fourth.
But back-to-back putbacks by Sydney and Morgan Taylor cut the lead to two with 1:34 to go, and Morgan Taylor drew a charge on Greenon’s Reagan Ware — who hit five 3s and led Greenon in its win over Troy Christian last year. Following that key defensive play, Megan Baker scored on the other end to tie the score at 35-35 with 35 seconds remaining.
“The last two minutes, we went to our press,” Ferraro said. “I tried to hold off on it, because it takes a lot out of our girls. But when we pressed, that sped them up a bit, and we did a good job of getting deflections and steals in that fourth quarter.”
Morgan Taylor still had two more big plays up her sleeve, too.
First, she intercepted a pass at the point and took it the other way, feeding Sydney Taylor for the game-winning basket with 12 seconds on the clock. Then, as Ware pulled up to try to win the game in the closing seconds, she blocked the shot and came down with it for a steal to seal the win.
“It’s funny — Morgan was playing a kid (Ware) going on a full ride to Wittenberg, and she played her tough as nails the whole time,” Ferraro said. “And that kid is good. She’s got such a quick release on her 3s. For four years, we’ve been watching her shoot those long shots. And Morgan did not back down. That was pretty impressive.”
Johnson led all scorers with 13 points and seven rebounds, Sydney Taylor finished with 10 points and seven rebounds and Morgan Taylor added six points and five rebounds as the Eagles outrebounded the Knights 36-25 in the game. Erin Schenk added four points and Sarah Earhart and Baker each had two points and six rebounds.
Ware was held to eight points on the night for Greenon. Henry added eight points, Delaney Benedict scored seven, Abby West had four, Sierra Potter and Alex Cunningham each had three and Katie Pry had two points and seven rebounds.
The 8-0 start is the Eagles’ best since beginning 7-0 in the 2008-09 season. Troy Christian travels to Riverside Saturday looking to go 9-0.
“I’ve got to give our kids credit,” Ferraro said. “They came through in the end.”
Contact Josh Brown at [email protected], or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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