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KNIGHT AND DAY: Hot shooting Troy Colts win sixth straight, avenging earlier loss to rival Troy Athens

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, February 7, 2020, 12:00 am

TROY — If you’re hot, you’re hot. And if you’re not … well, the rest of that saying is obvious. 

If you go on a hot streak, you’re probably going to cling onto it by your fingernails, and ride it as long as you can.

Once it ends, though … you find yourself scrambling to get it back.

With junior Calen Knight lighting it up from the outside in the second quarter of Wednesday’s cross-town rivalry game, her Troy Colts teammate continued to feed her for as long as her shooting streak lasted, hoping she was the antidote to prevent a Troy Athens rally, like last time.

“Well, it’s rivals, so gotta lock into that basket, and everything just kind of blurs out, and my eyes are on that rim. Gotta make that basket,” Knight said, admitting the Colts wanted revenge in Thursday’s game. “It take it personally. We lost the first game against them, so I was kind of out for blood tonight.”

She was scorching hot, too, hitting for 16 points in total — including four second-quarter 3-pointers and a long 2 — as the Colts won their sixth straight, avenging their earlier, 13-point loss to Athens with a 25-point win, 65-40. 

“Sometimes, it’s contagious. One girl starts feeling it, and then another one starts feeling it. We moved the ball exceptionally well to find the open girls. … We came off of three really good practices, and the ball was really moving around well in practice. My assistant and I kind of talked about that, and the nice thing is that they carried it on into the game,” Troy coach Simon Bato said. “I think we are (starting to click). We still have a lot of areas where we can improve, but yeah, we’re starting to gel a little bit more. That’s one thing we talked about all season was that you don’t want to peak in December, or even January.” 

Since 4-4 — and going 3-3 in the first circuit through the Oakland Activities Association’s White Division, with a three-game skid in the middle — the Colts (10-4, 6-3 OAA White) have climbed back into the race, ending the night Thursday in a tie for second with North Farmington, both two games behind Auburn Hills Avondale (9-5, 6-1).

As for Athens (11-4, 4-4), which got off to its best start in forever at 10-0, it’s been a struggle to get that early mojo back. The Red Hawks have lost four of their last five. 

“I don’t know (if anything changed). The beginning of the season, we were the ones shooting 39 percent. We’re back down to the upper 20s, lower 30s, and that’s frustrating,” Athens coach Stacie Klumpp said. “When you’re on, you’re on. When shooters aren’t making their shots, it kind of drops your head, every time you miss one. I think that kind of dealt into us playing not to lose, rather than playing to win.”

On Thursday, it was Troy hitting 39 percent from the floor, and nailing eight shots from behind the 3-point arc. 

Knight’s outburst helped the Colts outscore Athens 25-13 in the second quarter. 

Once one went in, then a second, then a third … at which point, the diminutive junior was more or less demanding the ball. 

“Yes, I’m on, I’m heated, I’m so excited,” she said.“My teammates are very supportive, so when they know I’m on a hot streak, they look for me on the court.”

That was a big difference from the first time around.

“We did a great job in our press the first time, and props to Troy that they figured out how to break that on us. Their personnel was a little different the second time, and I think having that extra ball-handler helped them out a lot,” Klumpp said. “They were shooting lights out, too. I said to Simon after the game, ‘Did you guys shoot more in our gym this week than we did?’ 

We also weren’t doing a good job of getting out and closing out on that shot out there. It was pretty much uncontested every time.”

The Colts’ ability to handle Athens’ pressure was helped by the presence of 6-foot-2 forward Kendal Zeiter, who missed the Colts’ first eight games. 

“They stifled us with it the first time, and we panicked a bit, at times, the first time. Our girls were much more composed tonight, and made the right decisions, and we were able to break it tonight,” Bato said.

“Last time, we let it get away from us. We came out and got off to a quick lead, much like — very similar to today. We actually reminded the girls of that in the first timeout. And then Athens went on a heck of a run, and we started turning the ball over. This time around, the kids kind of kept their composure, kept fighting, and we were kind of able to build off that.”

While Knight had 16 to lead all scorers, Zeiter finished with 10 points, seven blocks and six rebounds, while Athena Samson had 10 points and 14 rebounds — her 12th double-double of the season.

Grace Bright led Athens with 10 points, while Nitya Balusu had eight points and five rebounds.