SIDNEY — Josiah Hudgins shot a 3-pointer in the early minutes of the second quarter that was several feet away from the basket.
But the bounce off the backboard was favorable to Hudgins. The ball bounced straight through the hoop to push Sidney’s lead to six points over Piqua.
Hudgins gave a shrug as he ran backwards toward Piqua’s end of the court. The shrug was the best explanation for Sidney’s first half. Sometimes it seems nearly impossible for shots to fall — sometimes it seems nearly impossible for them not to fall.
Shots weren’t falling for Sidney early against Piqua’s 2-3 zone. But the Yellow Jackets picked up their aggressiveness midway through the first, overcame an early 10-point deficit and flew to a 74-46 victory over their archrival Indians in a Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division game on Friday.
The Yellow Jackets struggled early and trailed Piqua by 10. But after giving up a few easy baskets, they picked up their defensive intensity, created turnovers and outmanned the Indians the rest of the way.
“We went to the huddle there, Coach (John Willoughby) got on us a little bit, talking about how we work hard at practice and that we needed to pick it up and play like we do in practice,” Sidney senior guard Andre Gordon said of the slow start. “Everyone just bought in after that.
“…We just picked up the intensity and played hard. We came out like, ‘We’re going to beat these guys up.’”
Sidney (4-1, 3-0 GWOC North) put on a show and beat up the Indians so much, they even looked a bit intimidated at times. Andre Gordon had four dunks — including a 360-degree one right before the second quarter buzzer — while Ratez Roberts and Lathan Jones had one each. The team hit 11-pointers.
“We were picking up fullcourt, and that leads to steals and that leads to dunks,” Gordon said. “That hypes the game up and brought us back.”
It was fun for the sold-out crowd to watch, but Willoughby said the Indians (0-4, 0-3) won’t compare to the challenge Sidney will face on Tuesday at Vandalia-Butler, which entered a GWOC North game against Troy on Friday undefeated.
“We’re going to get into the season where people don’t care about that,” Willoughby said. “Right now, our mindset — like you say, I’m not saying it — is to put on a show for everybody. You don’t win that way all the time.”
Butler and Sidney tied for the GWOC North title last year. The Aviators won a December matchup in Sidney, but the Yellow Jackets won a February matchup in Vandalia 36-34 to force a tie for the conference title.
“This is the third game we’ve started slow, and that’s a concern. We can’t do that Tuesday,” Willoughby said. “… From what we’ve seen so far, (Butler is) not as deliberate as the second game they played us down there. They’ve got quality kids at all positions that can do all sorts of things. Their defense is outstanding. They did deep, they scrap, they’re tough, and they finish possessions offensively and defensively.”
Gordon led Sidney with 23 points, while Roberts scored nine and have five blocks unofficially. Senior guard Dominick Durr finished with eight. Seven other players scored for Sidney.
Sidney led 33-20 at halftime and extended the lead in the third. Gordon made a dunk with 6:24 left to increase the advantage to 38-22. Durr made a wide-open 3 from the left wing with 1:44 left to put the Yellow Jackets ahead 48-30.
Gordon added a layup with 52 seconds left, then Jones made a layup after a steal with 35 seconds left to increase the lead to 22 points. Jones opened the fourth quarter with a one-handed dunk to push the lead to 54-30.
Piqua built an 11-1 lead early in the first quarter but Sidney quickly fought back.
Trey Richmond hit a basket to put the Indians ahead by 10 points with 3:33 left in the first. Gordon made a 3 about 10 seconds later and then had a one-handed dunk on a possession that started after a Roberts block to pull Sidney within 11-6 with 2:30 left.
Roberts made a layup after picking up a Piqua turnover with 57 seconds left. Gordon grabbed a rebound, dribbled the length of the floor and made a layup with 23 seconds left to pull Sidney within 11-10.
Sidney’s 9-0 run ended when Qurri Tucker made a basket 19 seconds into the second quarter. The Yellow Jackets quickly pulled ahead, though.
Trey Werntz made a 3-pointer with 7:23 left to tie it 13-13, then Riley Hill made a basket for Piqua 20 seconds later. Werntz made a 3 from the right wing with 6:53 left, which put Sidney ahead 16-15. The Indians never led again.
Jace Conrad and Roberts followed with baskets to increase the lead to 20-15. Piqua cut the lead to 3 with 4:27 left but didn’t score for the rest of the quarter.
Gordon made a dunk after a seal with 4:08 left to push the lead to 25-20. Taborn made basket with 2:45 left, then Roberts made a pair of free throws with 1:22 left. Gordon made a basket after a Piqua turnover with 11 seconds left.
After another Piqua turnover, Gordon made a 360-degree dunk with one second left that left the crowd roaring while the teams headed for their locker rooms. The dunk capped off a 10-0 run by Sidney to end the half which extended the lead to 33-20.
“I did it a lot this summer, probably 10 or 11 times,” Gordon said of the 360-degree dunk. “That’s my second (in a regular-season game).”
Tucker led Piqua with 12 points while Tillman finished with 10.
Gordon said Sidney will refocus fast on Butler.
“We’ve just got to play basketball,” Gordon said. “We’re capable of it, taking practice and putting it on the floor in games. We’re probably (one of) the top five or top three most athletic teams in the GWOC, so I feel like we’re really capable of playing like that.”