Cougars cut into Trojans

by WILL LANGHORNE
The Western News | January 8, 2021 7:00 AM

The Stillwater Cougars slashed the Trojan varsity 76-29 during their Jan. 5 matchup. While Troy managed to hold on for the opening minutes of the game, they fell behind starting at the end of the first quarter.

Despite the loss, Troy head coach Justin Young was encouraged by the improvements the team had made since their Jan. 2 season opener against Thompson Falls.

“Night and day from the first game,” Young said. “We got a lot of work to do, but if the boys keep working hard like they have been, we’re going to make big strides every single game.”

Before the season kicked off last week, none of the Trojan players had any previous varsity starting experience. The starting lineup included two sophomores and two juniors. In total, eight high school boys came out for the team. To bolster the team’s ranks, Young drafted a few eighth graders for the junior varsity squad.

In the first four minutes of the game, the Cougars established a six-point lead. Troy narrowed the score to 8-7 thanks to seniors Jace Fisher and Malachi Montgomery. In the final minutes of the quarter, however, Stillwater pulled away after junior Nathan Schraeder and Justin Morgan scored a series of three-pointers.

Following the game, Young noted that the two-three zone defense the Trojans deployed in the first quarter may have given the Cougars too much space beyond the three-point line.

“They made some great threes today, they went on a run, and we probably handicapped ourselves a little bit,” Young said.

By the second quarter, the score was 19-7.

As Stillwater widened their lead, sophomore Trevor Grant scored five points and Fisher sunk another four. Young applauded Fisher for his performance after the game.

“He’s a big kid,” said Young. “You can’t teach that.”

During the Trojan’s season opener, the six-foot-five, 310-pound senior left the court in the first quarter when he hit his head. On Jan. 5, Fisher said he received eight staples from the injury.

“It felt good to finally get out on the court and play some minutes,” said Fisher.

At halftime, Troy trailed 39-16. In the third quarter, Young shifted strategy and had the Trojans run a man-to-man defense. He said he made the decision so the team could work on their fundamentals.

In the third quarter, Fisher scored another four and senior Malachi Montgomery made a two-pointer.

Throughout the game, the Trojans struggled with regulating the tempo of their offense. When the team needed to attack, Young said the players tended to slow down. When Troy needed to control the rhythm of the game, the players sped up. Young was confident that the young team would hone their ability to gauge tempo as they gained experience.

“That just comes with playing the game a little more at the varsity level and getting those reps,” he said.

In the fourth quarter, sophomore Paxton Fisher scored two three-pointers to bring up the final score.

The Trojans went on to play Big Fork away on Jan. 7.