By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
TROY — If Mark Hess has learned anything in his first year as the Troy boys basketball coach, it’s how hard his team is willing to battle and compete.
At times, though, the Trojans battle themselves as well as the opposition.
“One thing these kids have is fight,” Hess said. “But sometimes we make it harder than it has to be.”
And the Trojans found out that, against a team like Miami Valley League leader Sidney, that can be costly as Troy fell behind early, fought its way back into the game but could never get over the hump in a 60-54 loss to the Yellow Jackets in MVL crossover play Tuesday at the Trojan Activities Center.
The loss dropped Troy to 10-8 overall and 8-7 in the MVL Miami Division, tied with Butler three games back in second place behind Tippecanoe — which clinched at least a share of the division title with three games left. Sidney, which defeated Troy in overtime in the first meeting this season, improved to 17-2 overall and 14-1 in the MVL Valley, leading West Carrollton by two games and ensuring that the eventual Valley champion will at least share the overall MVL championship.
And in the end, the Trojans simply couldn’t get past their slow start. Troy was held without a field goal and committed seven of its 25 turnovers in the first quarter, falling behind 9-2 after one.
“We did start slow, and we were forcing a lot of things,” Hess said. “We were forcing gaps to drive that weren’t there. Sometimes you get in a big environment, a big game, and want to make the action happen and do what you can do help the team. But we forced some things that weren’t there and weren’t making them guard.
“We were trying to do too much — and for a coach, that’s tough. You don’t want them to feel not free to play, but you’ve got to find the flow within our offense.”
Troy fought back in the second quarter, though, with a drive by Shaeden Olden tying the score at 16-16 with roughly two minutes until halftime. But a foul on Troy on an attempted steal, as well as a technical foul as the Trojan player went on to dunk the ball after the play had been whistled dead, allowed Sidney’s Darren Taborn and Trey Werntz to each hit a pair of free throws to keep Sidney in front.
“They play with emotion, play with heart, and we make runs when we need to — but we make it harder with little things. We’ve got to pay more attention to detail and just be more solid,” Hess said.
Werntz then drilled a 3-pointer to give the Jackets a seven-point lead, and Troy’s Landyn Henry answered by banking in the Trojans’ first 3 of the game to cut the Sidney lead to 23-19 at halftime.
The teams continued to battle back and forth in the third, with Troy eventually tying the score at 31-31 midway through. But Devin Taborn hit a 3 to give Sidney a lead it would not relinquish. Troy got to within two late in the third on a 3 by Olden, but Darren Taborn hit a buzzer-beating 3 to put the Jackets up 42-37 heading into the fourth, and the closest the Trojans got the rest of the way was two at 54-52 with 1:20 to go.
In the end, performance from the free throw line was the difference. Sidney was 18 for 23 in the game, including 8 for 12 in the fourth quarter, while the Trojans were 10 for 20 on the night.
“If you pulled the stats from this game — we had about 25 turnovers, didn’t shoot well from 3 and were 10 for 20 from the line — if you showed me those numbers, said ‘you’re going to play Sidney, and here’s what you’re going to do,’ I would’ve thought we’d lost by 20. But these kids find a way to compete and get back into games,” Hess said.
Avante Martin had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead three Sidney players in double figures. Darren Taborn added 15 points and six rebounds, Werntz had 12 points and seven rebounds, Devin Taborn finished with seven points, Cedric Johnson scored three and Dominick Durr, Lathan Jones and Jaden Swiger each had two.
Olden led the Trojans with a game-high 18 points and eight rebounds.
“Shaeden had a good second half,” Hess said. “He puts a lot of weight on his own shoulders and tried to force some things early, but once we were in transition or got a couple reversals, he was able to find some gaps and get going.”
Henry added nine points, Andrew Holley and Jaden Owens each scored seven, Austin Stanaford had six points and 12 rebounds, Tre Archie added four points, Elijah Reynolds scored two and senior Brayden Siler — playing in his first game of the season coming back from an injury — had one point.
“Brayden, it’s a credit to him. He broke his hand during a football playoff game — and he hasn’t missed a practice since,” Hess said. “Never once, even though he couldn’t do anything. He just got cleared this week. It just shows his attention to detail and willingness to help.”
Troy travels to Tippecanoe Friday for a rematch against the division leader before heading to Celina for a non-league matchup Saturday.
Contact Josh Brown at [email protected], or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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