SIDNEY — Sidney saw a 13-point lead disappear in the fourth quarter of a Greater Western Ohio Conference game against Piqua on Friday. That’s when Keith Lee knew he had to do something.
“Just had to come out and play,” Lee said. “We weren’t all in our groove and had some disagreements on stuff. We had to do something because we couldn’t let that championship go.”
Lee scored five straight points to help Sidney break a tie and pull away to 62-53 win, which keeps the team in the GWOC American North Division title race. The Yellow Jackets are 10-3 in divisional play, one game behind league leader Butler (11-2). The two squads will play on Tuesday in Vandalia.
Tuesday’s game wouldn’t have had much meaning without Lee sparking Sidney’s decisive run.
Lee scored all seven of his points in the fourth quarter, including five points after Piqua tied the game 49-49.
Lee had a steal and layup to put the Yellow Jackets ahead by two. After Sidney (14-6) got another steal, Lee was fouled while shooting and made 1-of-2 free throws.
Piqua (8-12, 5-8 GWOC North) then missed a layup off an inbounds pass, and Lee scored soon after to increase the lead to 54-49.
Piqua called a timeout but committed a turnover right after play resumed, and Josiah Hudgins scored to give Sidney a seven-point lead with 2:55 left in the fourth.
“I thought (Lee) was playing a little slow in the first half, so at halftime we told him to pick up the speed and pick up the way he was playing,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “He made some key cuts and some key baskets. Andre (Gordon) hit him with a couple of passes there. Those were key turning points in the game.
“Keith has been playing really well about the last eight games or so. He’s worked his way into logging a lot of minutes for us. He’s an enjoyable kid to be around. Listens, tries to do what we ask him to do.”
Piqua pulled within 56-51 on a basket by Ben Schmiesing but narrowed the gap no closer. Schmiesing scored 21 points in the team’s first matchup on Dec. 15 but finished with nine on Friday.
Ratez Roberts helped in bottling up Schmiesing. Roberts, who hadn’t played or practiced since spraining his right ankle on Feb. 10, scored 12 points.
“That was really big for us that Ratez was able to play tonight,” Willoughby said. “It would have been a struggle without him. …He hadn’t gone up and down the court at all since then, but he gradually worked with our trainer and said today that he was ready to go.”
Roberts scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half to help the Yellow Jackets take a big lead. Sidney had a 25-12 lead midway through the second quarter, but Piqua’s Qurri Tucker scored a couple of late baskets to help the team cut the deficit to 32-25 by halftime.
Four Piqua players then combined to score the first 10 points of the third to give the team a 35-32 lead by the 5:30 mark. The game went back and forth until the last three minutes of the fourth.
“Defense comes first,” Lee said. “Defense leads to offense, so we had to do what we had to do to get back on D and get the W tonight.”
Gordon led Sidney with 20 points, including eight in the fourth quarter. Josiah Hudgins added 11 points and Devan Rogers finished with eight.
Hudgins has scored in double figures five times this season, including both games against Piqua. He had 10 points in the team’s first matchup.
Willoughby was especially pleased with Hudgins’ defensive effort against Piqua senior guard Devon Brown. Brown scored 18 points in the teams’ first matchup and finished with six on Friday.
“I think Josiah may have been the player of the game, especially with his defense,” Willoughby said. “We were especially worried with (Brown), the way he torched us and drove by us in that first game. We just worked with Josiah to keep (Brown) in front and take away his right hand. He just did a great job defensively tonight.”
The celebration of sweeping the rival Indians won’t last long with Tuesday’s rematch against Butler looming. Sidney led Butler through most of the teams’ first matchup on Dec. 19, but the Aviators used a 17-7 scoring advantage in the fourth quarter to earn a 58-51 win.
“We’ve got to play a whole game,” Lee said. “We played three quarters that game and let the fourth quarter slip. We’ve just got to play the whole game this time, and we’ve got them.”
Butler (18-2) has won 12 of its last 13 games, with its lone loss coming to Trotwood-Madison on Jan. 27. Sidney has won seven of its last eight, with its lone loss coming to Trotwood on Jan. 26.
“They’ve got three or four guards that can do a lot of things, and in high school, it’s hard to beat,” Willoughby said of Butler. “They put people in the right position, they don’t take bad shots and they don’t turn the ball over.
“… We’re going to have to be able to play the best game of the year so far to be able to beat them.”
Tucker led Piqua with 20.