BOYS BASKETBALL: Troy squeaks out ugly win over rival Troy Athens

| March 10, 2022 | Comments (0)




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TROY — For Troy, Wednesday’s performance was far from a thing of beauty. In fact it was a performance that was downright ugly.

Still, the Colts found a way to win and to survive and advance in the Division 1 boys basketball state tournament.

District host Troy used some stifling defense to rally past rival Troy Athens, 34-31, in a district semifinals clash at Troy.

“It was not pretty, but we survived — not thrived but survived,” noted veteran Troy coach Gary Fralick. “We found a way to win. It wasn’t pretty. We grinded out a win to be able to play another game.”

Troy forced Athens into 14 turnovers and held the Red Hawks to 30.6 percent shooting (11-for-36) from the floor and 7.6 percent from three-point range (1-for-13). That compensated for the Colts’ roughest first-half in years.

Using a zone defense and jamming up the middle, Athens held Troy scoreless in the first period and built a 7-0 advantage after eight minutes of play.

The Red Hawks continued to frustrate the Colts in the second quarter and  led 10-7 at the break. Athens shot just 3-for-10 from the floor in the first half, while Troy was only 3-for-22 from the field during the first 16 minutes.

Troy finally got untracked in the third quarter with a 15-6 run, which gave the Colts a 22-16 lead entering the final frame. Athens kept within striking distance with a 15-12 scoring edge in the fourth quarter but could never regain the lead down the stretch.

“I told them to shoot,” offered Fralick about his half-time speech. “I didn’t think they would use zone against us. We practiced for it but I didn’t think they would run it. Athens did a very good job with it. We struggled to hit anything in the first half. In the second half we started to attack the basket and hit some shots. And down the stretch we found a way to win.”

A three-pointer from Carter Cusmano with 3:26 to go in the third gave Troy a 16-14 lead and an advantage the Colts would not relinquish. In the final 2:52 of the fourth stanza, Troy held a trio of five-point leads and three free throws from Zach Penoza over the final 37.6 seconds gave the Colts a 34-29 cushion. Athens converted a layup with five seconds left but did not regain possession in the waning seconds.

Penoza, Darius Whiteside and Zack Fairless (five rebounds) all scored six points for Troy. Bryce Parker had four points, eight rebounds and two blocks while Cusmano finished with five points, six rebounds and three assists for the Colts.

Troy finished with only seven turnovers but converted only 12-of-40 shots from the floor (30 percent) and made just 3-of-18 shots from outside the arc (16.7 percent).

Troy (13-9) will advance to play Warren DeLaSalle in the district finals Friday at 7p.m. The Pilots soared past Warren Woods-Tower, 81-44, in the first game Wednesday.

“We’ll have to slow it down for starters,” noted Fralick. “If we can keep the pace down and I mean way down then I think we can be right there. If we try to play an uptempo game with them than we may struggle. DeLaSalle put up a lot of points in its game. We will watch a lot of game film to break them down.”

In his final prep game, fourth-year veteran Jordan Sebaugh led Athens with seven points and seven rebounds despite his right hand being all taped up. Emmanuel Robinson and Christian Jemmoa both scored six points for the Red Hawks (10-11), who held a 30-26 edge on the boards.

“We played good defensively and I think we frustrated them with our zone,” said Athens coach Dave Scott. “Troy did a nice job of packing it in during the second half. We just couldn’t make a couple of shots to loosen it up. We had some good looks, a lot of good looks at the basket but we just couldn’t get many to fall there at the end. I thought we played well enough to win but we could never get on a run to pull away in the first half and in the second half the shots just weren’t falling.”

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