SIDNEY — Sidney struggled to put away Tippecanoe the first time the teams played in Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division play and did again on Tuesday.
But just like the Dec. 8 matchup, Sidney didn’t let the game slip away.
After twice leading by 14 points in the second half, Sidney fought off a Tippecanoe rally to earn a 79-74 win.
Sidney pulled out to a 14-point lead midway through the third quarter and led by 10 points with six minutes left in the fourth. The Red Devils’ caught fire on offense, though, thanks to Tyler Skaggs.
Skaggs, a senior forward, scored 12 points in the fourth, including a basket with 1:55 left that brought Tippecanoe within four points. Cade Gingerich made a pair of free throws about 20 seconds later to bring Tippecanoe within 71-69.
The rally was similar to Sidney’s 68-64 win in December, in which Tipp narrowed a 12-point deficit down to four. And just like that game, the Yellow Jackets didn’t let Tuesday’s contest slip away.
After Tipp got its deficit down to two points, Andre Gordon, Darren Taborn, Ryan Heins and Devan Rogers made foul shots in the final minute to help Sidney hang on. Josh Wildermuth hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 24 seconds left to cut Tippecanoe’s deficit to 77-74, but Trey Werntz made a layup in the closing seconds to clinch the win for Sidney.
Sidney made 11-of-17 free-throws in the fourth quarter.
“We’re holding on, and that’s what’s important,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “… We’re a pretty good free-throw shooting team. Got Andre shooting well from the free-throw line. Darren made one-out-of-two to put us up four (75-71), which was a big deal. Always like that four spot, not as scary as three or two.”
Gordon led Sidney with 29 points, including six foul shots in the fourth. Taborn scored nine points in the fourth and finished with 18 while Rogers scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half.
“This is a tough one, but man, (Gordon) hit some tough shots,” Tippecanoe coach Adam Toohey said. “We’re going to say it’s okay if they beat us if he hits tough shots. We wanted all their guys to make tough shots, and all of their dudes made them. …They’re a very good team with very athletic players.”
The Yellow Jackets were hampered by the loss of junior forward Ratez Roberts, who injured his left ankle in the first three minutes and sat the rest of the game.
Roberts, who averages 12.3 points and nine rebounds per game, had to be helped off the court by two trainers and was using crutches by the end of the night. Willoughby said he didn’t know the severity of the injury.
After Rogers got in foul trouble in the second quarter, Willoughby said Tippecanoe was able to take advantage and find inside shots.
“I was kind of worried there,” Willoughby said. “But we held it right where we needed it, and we were able to play (Rogers) through most of the second half. I think that was the difference for us.”
Willoughby credited Keith Lee, Werntz and Taborn for helping to make up for Roberts’ absence.
Taborn didn’t score in double figures until Sidney’s win over Lehman Catholic on Jan. 20 and has reached double figures in three out of the last four games. He said the team wasn’t worried after Roberts left the game.
“We’ve got playmakers,” Taborn said. “Everyone will step up and do their part. I think everyone will do all right.”
Tippecanoe senior guard Cade Gingerich hit the first basket of the third quarter to tie the score 36-36, but Sidney followed with a big run to take control.
The Yellow Jackets scored the next six points on baskets by Gordon and Taborn. After Noah Bledsoe hit a basket with 4:49 left in the third to pull Tippecanoe within 44-39, Sidney went on an 8-0 run.
Rogers started the run with a jumper after a spin move with 4:17 left, and Keith Lee capped it off two minutes later with a basket in the paint to push the lead to 53-39.
Toohey said Tippecanoe went with a five-guard lineup in the fourth quarter to pull Rogers out of the paint and force him to defend on the perimeter. The moved worked and opened up shots for Skaggs, which helped Tippecanoe rally.
“We just got some shots,” Toohey said. “We knew Tyler could close out well. He likes to hide in the paint, so we try to get some good ones on him. Ball movement is a big thing for us. If we just take one-pass shots, we struggle. If we just dribble up and shoot it, we struggle. We try to have multiple-pass shots. That was a big focus.”
Though Tipp battled back, Taborn said he was confident Sidney would hold on.
“We had to lock up and play defense and keep a mindset,” Taborn said. “Just keep playing, work hard and rebound.”
The Red Devils outscored Sidney 25-19 in the second quarter and 30-24 in the fourth but were hampered by 17-9 and 19-10 deficits in the first and third quarters, respectively.
“It’s been good offensively this year,” Toohey said. “We focus a lot on the defensive end and still have to… We just have to be more consistent on nights like this.”
Gingerich, Caiden Smith and Skaggs each led Tippecanoe with 15 points while Josh Wildermuth scored 13 and Ben Sauls finished with nine.
Toohey was pleased with the effort, especially since senior guard Dan Hagen missed the game due to having the flu. Hagen averages 8.6 points per game and scored 10 points against Sidney on Dec. 8.
“It’s great,” Toohey said. “We’re not sure who it’s going to be, but we’ve got a lot of guys that share the ball and get stuff going. We try to share the ball. It doesn’t matter who scores, the points go to the team. We’ve done a good job in believing in that. I like where we’re at.”
Sidney (11-6, 8-3 GWOC North) plays at Troy on Friday. The Trojans played Sidney close when the teams met on Dec. 12, but the Yellow Jackets pulled away in the second half to a 65-54 win.
Tippecanoe (10-7, 5-5) plays at Piqua on Friday.
The Yellow Jackets led by 10 points early in the second quarter, but Tippecanoe quickly cut the deficit.
Skaggs and Gingerich made back-to-back 3-pointers to cap off an 8-0 run and cut Sidney’s lead to 31-30 with 1:40 left. Gordon hit a 3 a minute later to boost Sidney’s lead to four points, but Sauls scored a basket just before the buzzer to bring Tippecanoe within 36-34.
“I thought there in the second quarter, we took a couple of bad 3s and turned it over two or three times in a row unnecessarily trying to do a little bit too much, and I think that led to their offense,” Willoughby said. “We just told them at halftime we’ll be all right if we make the next pass. They were leaving us wide open because they’re concentrating so much on Andre. We just had to make the next pass and move in there, because there would be a lane.”
Sidney scored the first eight points of the game, but Tippecanoe went on a 7-2 run to narrow the gap. Zach Losey made a basket with 1:42 left in the first to pull the Red Devils within 13-9, but Gordon and Taborn made baskets in the paint by the end of the quarter to extend Sidney’s lead to eight points.
Smith made a basket and two free throws to cap off a 6-0 run and pull Tipp within 20-16 with 2:44 left in the second. Gordon hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key 10 seconds later, and Heins made a 3 from the left corner with 6:12 left to give Sidney a 26-16 lead.
Tipp was Sidney’s first GWOC North opponent since Greenville on Dec. 22.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.