By Alan Brads for Press Pros
Troy Christian improved to 10-0 in the Three Rivers Conference with a 56-41 win over rivals Miami East. They completed the sweep with efficient shooting from Parker Penrod and Christian Brusman to take one step closer to the conference title.
Troy, OH – Div. IV #11 Troy Christian completed the sweep on Miami East (10-7, 7-3) for the first time since the formation of the Three Rivers Conference in a 56-41 home win.
They also set themselves up even better to do something that no TRC team has ever done: win an outright conference title.
Improving to 10-0 in conference play, the Eagles (13-2) are still at least a week and a half away from clinching the TRC. But if they beat Northridge on Friday, they’ll have the deal nearly sealed. After Northridge, only Lehman Catholic, Bethel and Covington would stand between Troy Christian and intraleague perfection. They have already beaten all four of their remaining conference foes by double digits, but Northridge is perfect against all other conference teams.
“We’re gonna do it,” senior Christian Brusman said. Parker Penrod agreed perfection is already on the team’s mind.
Their maintained upper hand in the league comes thanks to a win tonight over Miami East, who they split the league title with the last two years (Milton Union also joined the fun in 2022), but this one didn’t come easy.
Average teams stick to what’s working.
Good teams stick to their identity and make it work.
That’s what Troy Christian did after trailing most of the first half to Miami East’s potent offense. Jacob Roeth, the TRC’s leading scorer, dropped 12 in the first half, including shooting a perfect 3/3 from three. And all of those were unassisted long-range bombs.
“You can only take away so many things,” Troy Christian coach Ray Zawadzki said about defending Roeth.
TC’s Christian Brusman scored nine in the first half, and Parker Penrod sank a moonshot of his own, but still the Eagles found themselves trailing 25-22 at the half, which isn’t too shabby considering they trailed 16-9 at the end of the first quarter.
“Offensively both teams played really well in the first half,” Zawadzki said, “Both teams were able to get what they wanted.”
Despite an explosive offensive half for Miami East, and yes, against Troy Christian, 25 points is an explosive half, the Eagles didn’t switch up their defensive game plan. They stuck to their guns.
Two-way basketball clicked early in the third quarter for TC.
Miami East couldn’t buy an open look, and Riston Taylor, Frank Rupnik and Alex Free ensured that one contested look was all they got by cleaning up the boards.
“When we get stop after stop after stop and limit them to one shot, it opens up what we’re very good at, transition basketball.”
They started turning defense into offense, which they do as well as any team in the area except for Russia, who incidentally is the only team ranked above Troy Christian in the region.
“There was a point we went on a 10-0 run, that kinda defines who this team is,” Zawadzki said.
And it didn’t take a scheme change, they just leaned into their identity.
“It was better execution,” Zawadzki said. “They have a lot of talent offensively. If you don’t apply your principles, they will take advantage of you.”
Free and Brusman spent the evening taking shifts face guarding Roeth in an attempt to keep the basketball out of his hands. And when he wasn’t draining threes all the way from Eastern Indiana, Free and Brusman did relatively well.
“It’s been fun to guard such a talented player throughout the years,” Brusman said. “I’m actually sad it came to an end.”
Penrod and Rupnik combined for 13 points in the third quarter, which the Eagles won 18-4, giving them a commanding 40-29 lead.
“We knew coming out of the locker room we had to win this game,” Penrod said. “Our attitude and our effort changed completely. We controlled rebounds and pushed in transition. That’s what changed with our attitude.”
Trailing by double digits in the fourth quarter is all but a death sentence against Troy Christian.
The Eagles entered clock-chewing mode, gobbling up 30 or 40 seconds in their half court offense. Even so, they played to score. They are exceptionally patient, but not excessively patient.
Roeth exited briefly with a head injury in the fourth, but returned soon after.
The Eagles whittled the clock and maintained their lead all the way to a 56-41 final.
Penrod led the night with 22 points, a shock to no one in the gym considering everyone there saw him score 20 the last time he played the Vikings. Brusman tacked on 15, which ties his second best mark of the season. Free heated up in the second half to finish with 11, nearly all in the paint.
For Miami East Ty Rohrer added 10 to Roeth’s 21.
“I told [Roeth] after the game that it’s been an honor coaching against him for four years,” Zawadzki said. “He really challenged us tonight.”
Bouncing back from a loss to Tri-Village could prove crucial not only in the conference standings, but also as a momentum get-back game before a grueling five-game stretch in February.
“Tri-Village was a game we all feel like we could’ve won,” Penrod said. “But we responded perfectly tonight, and we feel good moving forward.
They host 10-6 Northridge on Friday, and Chaminade Julienne the next day. Then they play Cedarville, currently ranked fourth in the region, just two spots behind TC. Then they top it off with a weekend of travel to Lehman Catholic, who will no doubt take their best shot at the Eagles, and Ottawa Glandorf, the top-ranked team in Div. III.
“We’re confident,” Penrod and Brusman said in perfect unison regarding their February schedule. “It’s only gonna make us better for the tournament,” Penrod said.
Confident or not, Zawadzki demands everything from his players over this stretch.
“We told the kids they gotta eat right, they gotta sleep right, they gotta do everything right,” Zawadzki said. “Because this run is not gonna be easy.”