By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TIPP CITY — Troy’s Jaden Owens may only be a sophomore, but he already figured out how to handle one of the highest-stress situations possible.
“I didn’t really have anything going through my head,” he said. “I was just like ‘I’d better not miss this.’ I was just hoping it went in.”
Owens, one of the Trojans’ young players with relatively little varsity experience coming into the season, was fouled with no time left on the clock in a tie game at division and county rival Tippecanoe Tuesday night, given only one chance to make the front end of a one-and-one to prevent the game from going to overtime. And Owens’ shot clipped the front of the rim, bounced off the backboard and rattled around before finally dropping through the net, setting off a celebration as the Troy boys basketball team outlasted the Red Devils for a thrilling 56-55 Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division victory.
In a game full of wild momentum swings, the tense moment capped off a hectic, at times sloppy and always hard-fought effort by two inexperienced teams just trying to figure it all out. And in the end, the Trojans (2-2, 2-2 GWOC American North) went a long way towards finding out just who they are.
“We have heart, and we never stop pushing,” Owens said. “Everyone has a role, and we just compete. And tonight, the young guys had to step up and do their job. We knew we could win it, and we did.”
And Troy’s younger players truly had to step up, given the team was playing without the vast majority of its returning varsity experience, as seniors Caillou Monroe and Jacob Martinez had fouled out — along with junior Austin Stanaford, who led the team in scoring on the night — and junior point guard Brayden Siler missed the game with an injury.
“We had some guys in the game at the end, that hadn’t had a lot of varsity experience in that situation, that did a really nice job,” Troy coach Paul Bremigan said. “Jaden hit a free throw there at the end in a tough situation. I thought we played hard all night, our ball pressure was good all night, and that’s a big key for us.”
Tippecanoe (2-3, 2-2 GWOC American North) — which also lost in overtime against Bethel in another tight home game earlier this season — had the ball with 15.6 seconds left and a chance to win the game themselves, but a missed shot too early in the possession allowed Tre’Vone Archie to grab the rebound and hurl a long pass to Owens streaking down the floor, forcing the Devils to commit the foul at the game’s end.
“We shot it a little too early,” Tippecanoe coach Adam Toohey said, “The goal was to shoot it at about four (seconds), and we started going at about eight or nine. We wanted to get the last one on our end, and it just left too much time for them. And credit that guy (Owens) — he got down the floor in about 3.5 seconds.”
It was a fitting way to end to a game where the momentum swings potentially could have given the fans present whiplash.
Tippecanoe jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind three 3s by Nolan Mader, while Troy missed its first 10 shots and turned the ball over eight times during that run, and the Devils led 14-2 after one. But the Trojans used 12 second-quarter turnovers by the Devils to get back into contention, getting as close as three points at 24-21 after a 3 by Stanaford, with Tippecanoe clinging to a 26-21 halftime lead.
The turnovers continued in the third, with Troy forcing 11 more and taking its first lead, 32-31 at 2:35 on — coincidentally — a free throw by Owens. The Devils retook the lead briefly, but Troy retook control and built a 43-37 lead after three on a floater at the buzzer by Archie — and led by as many as 10 at 51-41 midway through the fourth quarter.
For the game, Tippecanoe committed 34 turnovers and Troy committed 26, with possession often changing hands back and forth two to three times per play.
“It was like watching a tennis match at times, with the way the ball went back and forth,” Toohey said.
“It looked like hockey there for a bit,” Bremigan said with a laugh.
And in the game’s final four minutes, it was Tippecanoe’s turn to fight back. A 3 by Ben Sauls got the run going, then Ben Knostman in-bounded the ball off of a Troy player’s back to himself, scored a layup and drew a foul — Martinez’s fifth — to cut the Trojan lead to five. At the 2:50 mark, Stanaford fouled out, and a Mader free throw cut the lead to four. Monroe then fouled out at 2:38, and Johnny Baileys hit a free throw to make it a 51-48 game.
With Troy leading 53-50, Baileys then hit a 3 with a minute to go to tie the score, and Sauls hit a pair of free throws to give the Devils a 55-53 lead. A hustle steal by Sam Shaneyfelt led to a fast-break layup by Owens to tie the score with 25 seconds left, setting up the game’s stunning conclusion.
“This was one of those ‘age you 10 years’ games,” Toohey said. “We came out and Nolan Mader was blazing hot, hit four 3s in that first half, we came out feeling great and then they put it on us in the second quarter. We struggled to take care of it the rest of the way, but we found some fight there at the end and showed some grit, the fact that we’re not going to quit on it and got it tied.”
Stanaford led the Trojans with 15 points, eight rebounds and four steals, while Owens finished with nine points and five steals. Caleb Fogarty had eight points and five steals, Shaneyfelt had six points, six rebounds and three steals, Monroe had six points and six rebounds, Archie had six points and three assists and Martinez and Arik Viney both had three points.
“We got down 14-0 to start the game, and to be down 14-0 with the crew we had in in foul trouble, it says a lot for our younger kids,” Bremigan said. “Sam Shaneyfelt played a heck of a game. He got a lot of loose balls and a lot of rebounds. Austin gives me everything he’s got every night. Tre’Vone came in and ran the point well. I was happy.
“I was a little concerned with our conditioning late — Martinez hadn’t played in two games, and we were playing without Siler, so there was added responsibilities for the other kids with that. And the kids did everything that was asked of them.”
Mader led all scorers with 17 points and added six rebounds, Knostman had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists and Sauls had 13 points and three steals. Baileys added seven points and three steals, while Patrick Manes and Nick Robbins each scored two points.
“It was that powder keg of finals week emotions, a close rival … yeah, it was like four or five games in one game itself,” Toohey said. “Even to get back to that close when it seemed so out of reach … but our guys hit some big shots, we got to the free throw line, we got some big stops and rebounds and got it tied. Credit Troy, too, they battled back hard. To hang in there and fight all the way back, they’re a good team.”
Both teams will close out the first run through division play with rivalry matchups Friday, with Troy hosting Piqua and Tippecanoe hosting Butler.
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.