By Rob Kiser
The Piqua boys basketball team is headed in the right direction headed into the most difficult — and maybe pivotal — four game stretch of the season.
An Indians team that has struggled at times playing with leads — as recently as last Friday against Vandalia-Butler — executed to perfection in the second half in a 65-51 win over Troy Friday night in GWOC North action.
Piqua improved to 9-6 overall and 3-2 in the GWOC North, while Troy dropped to 4-10 overall and 1-4 in the GWOC North.
“This team is getting better,” Piqua coach Heath Butler said. “We are not there yet, but they are learning. I don’t think we are a team anyone wants to play — not just in the second half of the GWOC North, but in the tournament.”
Leading 27-23 at the break, Piqua made five threes in a 23-point third quarter to open a 50-38 lead.
“We did hit the threes,” Butler said. “But, it starts with getting the ball inside for some easy shots and working inside-out. Once they see a couple shots go in, they shoot with confidence.”
The Indians made 11 threes on the night.
Colton Bachman made four, Bradley Hohlbein, Derrick Gullett and Ben Schmiesing all hit two and Nate Monnin added one.
“That’s what makes this a dangerous team,” Butler said. “We have a lot of guys who can hit them. You can’t just take Colton (Bachman) away — I thought Troy did as good a job of that as anybody has all year.”
Then, with a 12-point lead going to the fourth quarter, Piqua was patient — something they haven’t always been with a lead — working for a good shot and making it impossible for Troy to make a run.
Piqua went 5-for-6 from the floor and 4-for-6 from the line to put the game away.
Ryan McClurg brought Troy within nine twice on 3-point field goals, but that was as close as the Trojans could get.
“We did a good job of working the ball,” Butler said. “I thought we played a really good second half.”
In the first half, Piqua opened leads of 11-4 in the first quarter and 24-15 in the second quarter, only to have Troy close the gap.
The Trojans scored the final nine points of the first quarter to go up 13-11 and got back within 27-23 at the break, before Piqua took control in the final 16 minutes.
“I think we just a little too jacked up in the first half,” Butler said. “We smoked a couple layups and when you do that, it puts you out of position on defense and you end up giving up points in transition. I thought we settled down in the second half. As Naismith said, put the ball in the basket.”
Bachman led Piqua with 22 points.
Monnin had 13 points and 15 rebounds and Hohlbein and Schmiesing both scored 12 points.
“We had a lot of guys score tonight,” Butler said. “Nate (Monnin) has just been a beast the last couple weeks. He is learning to use angles and impact the game — even when he isn’t scoring.”
Romello Yaqub and Keenan Kinnel both scored 13 points for Troy, while Mechia Linton had eight points and six rebounds.
Piqua was 24 of 45 from the floor and six of 15 from the line, while Troy was 19 of 55 from the floor and eight of 12 from the line.
Both teams had 29 rebounds and Piqua had 14 turnovers to Troy’s 10.
Now comes a big stretch, starting next week when Piqua goes to Northmont Tuesday and hosts Trotwood-Madison Friday.
“The good thing is they both play similar styles,” Butler said. “We are just going to have to be ready every play against Northmont.”
And it is another chance for the Indians to continue their progression as they head down the stretch.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.