XENIA — Chatting with each other before the game, Troy coach Aaron Johnson and Xenia coach Kyle Gray both expected to witness a very evenly matched girls high school basketball game.
They got it.
While Xenia found itself battling with several of its key components either fouled out of the game, or coming close to doing so, the Buccaneers nearly pulled off the late rally. But instead, Troy plunked in just enough free throws down the stretch to nab a road win, 36-32, Jan. 25 at Xenia High School.
As the final second of Wednesday’s game ticked off the clock, Xenia’s leading scorer and third-leading scorer had fouled out, while their second- and fourth-best scorers were on their best behavior with three fouls each.
“We’ve been battling that all season. We’ve had a lot of situations like this happen, where two kids get in trouble … and that starts moving other kids out of position. And that’s when the problem starts. We’re still trying to learn how do cover for when stuff like this happens,” Gray said. “But I was really impressed with how we still battled back to make it a one-possession game and nearly pulled it out. So, considering all the crap that happened, I loved our effort.”
The two teams battled to an 18-18 tie at halftime, but Xenia failed to score for the final 5 minutes of the third quarter. Troy (9-8, 4-6 and in fourth place in the Greater Western Ohio Conference’s American North) limited the Buccaneers to four points, and grabbed a 28-22 lead with eight minutes of basketball left to play.
Xenia (5-12, 3-7 and fourth in the GWOC American South) got the deficit within three or four points on several occasions, then a half-court steal followed by Astella Welsh’s running lay-in with 41.3 seconds left brought the Bucs within one point, 33-32.
Troy entered the game having hit 47.7 percent of its free throws this season, but Bailey Hess, Jordan Short and Kiyha Adkins each hit the front end of their double-bonus freethrow tries in the game’s final 25 seconds to nab the Trojan win.
Hess led Troy with eight points scored, seven of which came in the second half, and Tia Bass was next with six. In all, nine Trojans players scored in the contest.
“This is my first year coaching the program. So defensively, we had some breakdowns because Xenia is very athletic,” Johnson said. “Astella Welsh and Trinity Morton-Nooks were tough for us to defend, because they were very strong and that hurt us. … We handled their pressure, and we took care of the ball when we needed to.
“I was talking to Kyle before the game and we agreed that we were both pretty even. I think if we play each other 10 times, we’d both win five. This was just our turn to win.”
Victoria Rady led Xenia with a game-high 13 points. Morton-Nooks finished with eight points and Welsh added six. The rest of the team combined for five points. Xenia plays next at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28 at Riverside Stebbins.
“We missed a lot of shots around the basket, and they made the plays when we didn’t. Kudos to them!” Gray said.