BY JAKE LOURIM
ROCHESTER HILLS — Friday’s girls basketball game was all about No. 25 vs. No. 25, Troy’sSydney Heath vs. Rochester Stoney Creek’s Lauren Voss. Heath won in the scoring column, but Voss won on the scoreboard.
Troy played its best defensive game of the season but fell just short in an upset bid at Rochester Stoney Creek, 33-28.
The Colts came out in an aggressive man-to-man defense with Heath guarding Voss.
Troy coach Simon Bato said Voss hit nine of 11 three-point attempts in her previous game. Heath held her to just 2-for-10 shooting from the floor and seven points, two of them coming on late free throws.
When Heath came out, junior Rachael Zelmanski took Voss. Heath scored 15 points with nine rebounds, while Zelmanski added six with 13 boards.
“That’s just another night on the job for those two,” Bato said. “We expect that from them every night, and they’ve been terrific.”
After an energetic first half left the Colts down only two to the 8-4 Cougars, Stoney Creek pulled away and led by seven at the end of the third quarter.
Troy clawed back, giving up only four points in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter, and trailed by two needing to intentionally foul with 24 seconds left.
The Colts got the ball back behind by three and found Zelmanski for a potential game-tying three-pointer, but it rimmed out and Voss iced the game at the line.
“It was a terrific effort,” Bato said. “I never doubted the effort of this team. They’re all hard workers. We’re getting closer — we just have to turn the corner.”
Junior Nicole Niemiec was given the task of guarding Stoney Creek’s other shooter, point guard Zandi, and held her to only eight points on 3-for-10 shooting.
“(Bato) said (Zandi) was the motor of the team,” Niemiec said. “He said for me to deny the ball.
“For me, it was to make her work. All I could was just outwork her.”
Stoney Creek, which has long held the reputation of being a strong three-point shooting team, shot just 3-for-15 inside the arc and 22 percent from the floor. The Cougars beat Troy 46-39 on Dec. 11.
Troy closed out on the shooters, but the Cougars grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, giving them enough second-chance points to win the game. Still, Troy led 7-4 after the first quarter despite giving up six offensive boards.
The Colts (1-12, 0-8 OAA Red) brought one of their best efforts of the season, even on an eight-game losing streak.
“It shows that we have a lot of heart,” Niemiec said. “If we get one person going, we see Sydney get going, we see Rachael get going, we all get going.”
Troy also fought back from the seven-point deficit.
“We need to exert that same type of energy the rest of the season,” Bato said. “I thought for the most part we did a great job.”
On the offensive end, Troy shot just 20 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 17 times against Stoney Creek’s stingy 1-2-2 zone defense.
At times, the Colts penetrated the zone with good ball movement around the perimeter and into the paint, but at other times, Bato said, they didn’t allow plays to develop.
“Patience is the key with that,” Bato said. “At times, when we turned it over, we dribbled into the teeth of the defense. We’ve just got to be more patient.
Troy wraps up its non-league slate Tuesday against Lake Orion before a league matchup Thursday at Clarkston.
(Jake Lourim is a senior at Troy High School and a member of the S.H.P. Media Group / www.northoaklandsports.com Student Correspondence Program. He is publisher of website www.troycoltsportsupdate.com and a member of the Troy school newspaper editorial staff. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com)