By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
TROY — Troy girls basketball coach Aaron Johnson — whose most-used buzzword all season long has been “execution” — knew Monday’s Senior Night game wasn’t about any of that.
So he dropped all — well, most — of the thinking parts of the game and let the emotions of the night in.
“Tonight, the girls had fun,” he said. “They made a promise to send the seniors out with a victory.”
The seniors themselves delivered on that promise, too.
MaKenna Taylor hit five 3-pointers and scored a career-high 21 points and Tia Bass had her 12th double-double of the season, leading the Trojans to a 55-42 Senior Night victory Monday at the Trojan Activities Center, their ninth win in their last 10 games to close out the regular season at 14-8.
Troy honored its five seniors on the night — Bass, Taylor, Laura Borchers, Caitlyn Hutson and Chloe Coleman.
“I really wanted tonight to be about those seniors,” Johnson said. “They were freshman my first year here, and to watch them mature and blossom into the group they are now, to watch all five of them on the floor at the beginning and the end, for me, was incredibly special, and I hope it did something for them, as well. Those are the players that got us to this point, and they deserve all the credit. And I wanted them to start and finish this game on the floor together.”
“The Xs and Os just weren’t as important. It’s my seniors. What they brought to this program, I can’t thank them enough. I can’t begin to tell them how much I appreciate everything they’ve done the last four years. They’re the first group I had from grades 9-12, and they’re very special. Very special.”
And with the score tied at 20-20 at halftime, it was Bass and Taylor, as well as MaKenna’s younger sister, sophomore Macie Taylor — who only played less than two minutes in the first half before getting into foul trouble — that gave the Trojans control.
With Covington leading 24-22, Macie Taylor hit a step-back 3 to give Troy a lead it would not relinquish. Macie Taylor then stole the ball, drove and dished to Bass, who converted a three-point play, then MaKenna Taylor lobbed the ball inside to Bass for another bucket that made it a 30-24 game. The Buccaneers got back to within two at 32-30 after a pair of Claudia Harrington free throws, but a three-point play by Macie Taylor and then back-to-back layups by MaKenna Taylor — including one at the buzzer — gave Troy a 39-30 lead heading into the fourth.
MaKenna Taylor then kicked off the final quarter with a 3, and the Buccs got no closer than nine the rest of the way.
“The contributions of our seniors were huge,” Johnson said. “Tia was big. I thought Laura Borchers played a great all-around game. And MaKenna, she hit some shots. She was the MaKenna of old. It was good to see her shooting with confidence.
“Macie had a quiet first half, but I think the realization of (playing her last game at home with) her older sister hit her a little bit, so she got her emotions under control in the second half and played really well. Some of those drives to the basket and assists she had were just awesome.”
The first quarter couldn’t have gone much better for Covington (10-12).
Morgan Kimmel and Harrington each hit a 3 and Claire Fraley scored two buckets inside, and a pair of free throws by Harrington gave the Buccs a 12-6 lead after one as Macie Taylor was forced to sit the bench in foul trouble and Bass couldn’t get open inside.
“That was the plan coming in,” Covington coach Brandon Studebaker said. “Obviously Taylor is a solid player and does a lot of nice things, and Bass is dominant on the boards and automatic if she catches the ball in the paint. So our plan was to take Taylor out of the game and double down on Bass, and you take your chances there — and MaKenna got loose on us. Credit to her, she deserve to have a good game on Senior Night, and unfortunately it happened against us.”
MaKenna Taylor hit a pair of second-quarter 3s and scored eight points to lead a 12-0 Troy run that gave the Trojans a 20-15 lead. Josie Crowell hit one of her three 3s, though, and Harrington hit two more free throws to tie the score at the break — only for Troy to turn in an even bigger second half.
MaKenna Taylor’s 21 points led the way for Troy, while Bass finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds to help the Trojans outrebound the Buccs 28-20. Macie Taylor scored all 13 of her points in the second half and added four assists and four steals, Borchers had two points and four rebounds and Elise McCann had one point.
Harrington led the Buccs with a double-double of her own with 17 points and 10 rebounds, Crowell and Fraley each scored nine points, Kimmel finished with six and Morgan Lowe had one.
Covington will begin Division IV sectional tournament play at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Brookville against Catholic Central.
“Credit to our kids. Coming off of Saturday’s loss to Houston, it was a huge bounceback,” Studebaker said. “We’re facing a Division I team, bigger school, bigger kids, more physical, and this was our third game in five days, so we didn’t have a whole lot of time to prepare. But it was a big game going into tournament play.
“I’m proud of the kids and the way they responded. We came out on fire, it was a tie game at halftime, and then MaKenna got loose on us. But they didn’t give up. The kids continued to play hard the whole way.”
For Troy, it was another revenge game — only a year later. Last season, Covington routed the Trojans 69-28 in the regular season finale, a result that led directly to Troy’s 59-28 loss in the opening round of the sectional tournament.
This year, though, the Trojans have built up plenty of momentum heading into the D-I sectional, where they will open with a second-round game at 6 p.m. Feb. 18 at Butler against the winner of Thursday’s game between Beavercreek and Tecumseh.
“The second half of this season is unlike any I’ve had coaching-wise. And it’s all them,” Johnson said. “You’re looking at 10-2, we won nine of our last 10 games. It was great to see us play together, and it was great to see MaKenna have that great night for her Senior Night.”
Contact Josh Brown at [email protected], or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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