SIDNEY — Sidney doesn’t need much motivation when it comes to playing rival Piqua. But when the teams meet this Friday in Sidney for a Greater Western Ohio Conference game, the Yellow Jackets’ American North Division title hopes will be on the line.
Sidney (13-6, 9-3 GWOC North) is in second place in divisional standings behind Vandalia-Butler (17-2, 10-2). The Yellow Jackets will wrap up regular-season play over the next week with three divisional opponents, including Butler next Tuesday.
A loss to Piqua would put Sidney two games behind Butler with two conference games left for both league leaders.
The Indians nearly won the first matchup between the teams, and Sidney coach John Willoughby said the Yellow Jackets won’t be overlooking Friday’s matchup.
“We’re all targeted towards Piqua,” Willoughby said. “We know what they did to us the first game. There shouldn’t be anybody out there thinking we can look past them.”
Piqua (8-11, 5-11) led 37-22 at halftime in the first matchup on Dec. 15 before Sidney rallied for a 69-61 win. The Yellow Jackets went on a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter to take control of the game for good.
“We’ve been working on the way they push the ball,” Willoughby said of Piqua. “They’ve done a great job of beating people down the floor. They took advantage of us the first game down there. Watching a couple of their games recently, they’re playing really well.”
And as bothersome as the Indians were for Sidney the first time around, they could be even more so Friday. Sidney will likely be without junior Ratez Roberts, who sprained his right ankle in a game against Tippecanoe last week.
Roberts, a 6-foot-3 forward, has missed Sidney’s last two games. He scored 14 points against Piqua in December and leads the team with an average of 11.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
“He hasn’t practiced yet,” Willoughby said on Wednesday night. “I would probably say it’s 70/30. He’s had it taped and is doing some drills, but he hasn’t gone up and down the floor at all.”
Piqua senior forward Ben Schmiesing averages 15.9 points and a GWOC-best 11.9 rebounds per game. Devon Brown, a 5-10 senior guard, averages 13.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game while 5-10 junior Qurri Tucker averages 12.8 points.
Schmiesing had 21 points and 11 rebounds in the December game, while Brown had 18 points and nine rebounds.
“Schmiesing is a heck of a player and gives us all the trouble in the world,” Willoughby said. “We could not contain (Brown) for the majority of that game, so we really have to target in on that. We can not let him play like we did that first game.”
Piqua has been bolstered by the addition of junior guard Mick Karn since its first game against Sidney. Karn was moved up from junior varsity after the loss and has played in every game since. He averages 8.9 points per game.
Willoughby said the addition of Karn has helped Schmiesing get more open looks inside since teams can’t allow Karn to be open on the wing.
“We’ve got to defend well,” Willoughby said. “Our man defense has been playing well. Our help defense is there, and we’re trying to throw some zone in once in a while to mix some things up and make (opponents) run something different.”
Sidney junior guard Andre Gordon has put together a strong streak of games recently. Gordon, who is second in the GWOC with 25.3 points per game, has scored 29 or more points in three of the last five games, including a 34-point performance against St. Marys last Saturday.
Gordon, who scored 21 points in the first matchup with the Indians, also averages 4.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. Senior center Devan Rogers averages 9.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
The tournament draw for all Ohio boys basketball teams is Sunday. Willoughby said he expects Sidney to earn between the No. 7 to No. 10 seed in the 19-team Dayton Division I sectional.
“We play where we’re told to play, and whatever the draw gives us, that’s what we’ll play with,” Willoughby said. “It’s an exciting time, but you’ve got to be able to deal with it and ready to play.”
Sidney will travel to Vandalia to take on Butler next Tuesday and wrap up regular season play next Friday at home against Greenville.