By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
and Darrell Wacker
TROY — The Troy basketball team gave everyone else something to think about heading into Sunday’s Division I sectional tournament draw.
But in the end, Butler did what potential top seeds do.
The Trojans battled the Aviators — ranked No. 9 in the latest D-I state poll — all night long, never trailing by more than eight points, holding a lead early in the fourth quarter and keeping the score tied with four minutes to play. But Butler made clutch plays down the stretch, including a steal and transition dunk by Bryant Johnson with 1:12 to go, and got a career night out of Quentin Glover and was able to escape the Trojan Activities Center with a hard-fought 59-55 Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division victory Friday night.
It was the eighth straight win for Butler, which improved to 18-2 overall and remained tied with Sidney atop the GWOC American North Division at 11-2. Playing for the first time without senior point guard Michael Kreill, though, the Aviators knew they’d be in for a fight.
“We found a way to win tonight,” Butler coach D.J. Wyrick said. “We never got rattled, we knew we had a chance to win and had the lead for the majority of the game. If we make a couple of 3s or grab a couple of offensive rebounds that seemed to bounce their way, this game is different. But I’m proud of the way we continued to compete and fight and just grind one out.
“We missed some shots we typically hit and, without Michael (Kreill) on the floor, we forced some things that we typically don’t. And Troy played a good game. There was a huge crowd, and they had a lot of energy. This was like a tournament atmosphere.”
And that should make give the Trojans hope as the postseason draws near, with Butler likely to be the No. 1 seed in the sectional draw come Sunday. The Trojans fell to 6-12 on the season and remained in third place behind Butler and Sidney in the division at 5-8, yet they turned in arguably their best performance of the season against tough competition.
“I thought so, too,” Troy coach Paul Bremigan said. “In the first half, we got hurt by what’s been hurting us all year — patience, no patience on offense. But I thought we did a decent job defensively, and we did score. Shaeden (Olden) got us going. And in the second half, I thought we played better. It just came down to some plays at the end that they made and we didn’t make, some turnovers and some shots that just didn’t go in. I didn’t think they were bad shots. They just didn’t go in.”
Leading the way for Butler was senior post Glover, who scored a career-high 21 points and added eight rebounds, helping the Aviators claim a 44-35 edge on the glass and hurt the Trojans with second-chance points.
“He (Glover) has really came on late after his knee injury in football, and he’s finally rounding into the player we know he’s capable of,” Wyrick said. “We worked this week on playing inside-out, and he’s hard to guard down low and causes a lot of matchup problems.”
“They do a good job of penetrating and feeding their post,” Bremigan said. “With Johnson and Glover, they’ve got some size and can do that. Glover’s been playing well for them lately. And they’re always very efficient offensively. They don’t give up many stops.”
But while the Aviators built a huge lead in the first meeting between the teams back on Dec. 14, 2018 then held off a late rally for a 58-50 win, Friday night’s matchup was a battle from the start.
The lead changed hands five times in the first quarter alone until Glover kicked off a quick 6-0 spurt with a bucket inside to give Butler a 10-9 lead. Braedon Norman followed that with a layup and Cooper Justice stole an in-bounds pass — the only turnover for either team in the first quarter — and took it the other way for a layup to put the Aviators up 14-9. Tre’Vone Archie hit a long 3 to keep the Trojans in the game, though, and Butler held a 17-13 lead after one. And the Aviators maintained that advantage throughout the second quarter but never led by more than six, holding a 31-25 lead at halftime.
A putback by Glover with 3:16 left in the third gave Butler its biggest lead of the game at 41-33, but a bucket by Archie, a transition 3 by Jaden Owens and a third-chance putback by Caillou Monroe got Troy to within one before a Johnson tip-in at the buzzer gave the Aviators a three-point lead heading into the final quarter, 43-40.
“We wanted to attack in the second half and push the ball on offense,” Bremigan said. “I still think we can push it harder than what we do. I’d like to see us have the confidence enough to push the ball. We push about half speed, and they run back full speed, and it’s hard to score.”
A pair of free throws by Archie gave Troy its first lead since the opening quarter at 45-43 with 6:46 to play, then Olden hit a 3 after Butler had tied the score to keep the Trojans in front at 48-45. But a free throw by Johnson and steal and layup by Tyler Montague tied the score again with 4:25 to go, and another steal and layup by Norman gave the Aviators a 50-48 lead and forced Troy to call timeout with 3:13 to play.
The Trojans missed an open shot at a 3 to retake the lead, then Norman drilled one on the other end to make it a five-point game. Troy closed to within three with less than two minutes to play, but Johnson stole the ball on the perimeter again and threw down a one-handed dunk to keep it a two-possession game with 2:4o on the clock. Archie hit two more free throws to cut the lead to three again at 55-52 and Troy had the ball with a chance to close the gap more, but the Trojans couldn’t connect on a back-door alley oop pass, and Glover converted that turnover into a bucket in the paint on the other end with 25 seconds to go that essentially put the game out of reach.
After Glover’s big night, Johnson added 12 points and six rebounds for the Aviators. Norman chipped in nine points, Montague had seven points and seven rebounds, Matt Beverly had six points and Justice had four points and eight rebounds.
Archie led the Trojans with 17 points and five rebounds, Olden finished with 16 points — 12 in the first half — and six rebounds, Monroe had eight points and seven rebounds, Austin Stanaford had seven points and five rebounds and Owens had seven points.
Next up for Butler is the rematch for the GWOC American North championship, as the Aviators travel to Sidney to face the Yellow Jackets Tuesday.
“We have taken care of business up to this point to earn the opportunity to play for a league championship,” Wyrick said. “Prior to last year, it was 15 years at Butler before anyone had a chance to do that. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we are really looking forward to it. The environment will be unbelievable. They have earned this, they are excited and they are locked in.”
After hosting Celina on Senior Night Saturday, the Trojans host Tippecanoe Tuesday in their final home game of the season.
“We’ve got four games left in nine days, and we’ve got to be ready,” Bremigan said. “We’re playing nine guys most of the time, and I thought they all contributed in their own way tonight. That’s good to see. It’s just frustrating to not come away with a win.”
Because to Bremigan and the Trojans, there’s no moral victories — even in pushing a state-ranked team to the brink.
“Never. Never,” he said.
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.