SIDNEY — Sidney stayed close to Trotwood-Madison for much a Greater Western Ohio Conference crossover game on Friday.
And though the Yellow Jackets lost, Sidney coach John Willoughby hopes the experience will be a valuable one for preparing the squad for a deep tournament run starting next month.
The Rams, which are the No. 1 ranked team in Division II in the Associated Press state poll, dominated the last 6:30 of the game and turned a two-point lead into an 90-69 victory in front of a sold-out and oftentimes raucous crowd.
“I thought we played all right. For a long while, we did a good job of looking diagonal, throwing the ball up the floor and making some easy baskets,” Willoughby said. “I think we did that for about three and a half quarters, and then all of a sudden, we just started trying to rush again. They take advantage of it quick.”
It’s the second loss in three games for the Yellow Jackets (11-3, 8-2 GWOC American North), which had rattled off nine consecutive wins before a loss at Fairborn last Friday.
Trotwood (11-2, 8-0 GWOC American South) finished the last six and a half minutes on a 28-9 run. The Rams’ full-court press caused some late turnovers that contributed to the run.
“For the most part, we did the right things against the press, and I thought for the most part we did a good job and got easy baskets,” Willoughby said. “They don’t mind that, though, because they just want to keep (the pace) going and keep it going. So you can get that false sense of security. If you break it a few times, you feel like you can do something else instead of not sticking to what you should.
“But I thought our kids played well and played hard. I give all the credit to Trotwood.”
Sidney led for most of the first half, thanks in part to Darren Taborn scoring 17 points. Trotwood finished the second quarter on an 11-2 run, though, to take a 44-43 halftime lead.
The Rams started the third quarter on a 12-2 run to take a 56-45 lead. The Yellow Jackets’ zone defense held Trotwood to four points over the last six minutes and enabled them to get back into it.
Andre Gordon capped off an 8-0 run with a jumper with 3:32 left to pull Sidney within 56-53, though Amari Davis then scored on a jumper and a dunk to push the lead to 60-53 with 2:11 left. Trey Werntz hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to pull Sidney within 60-56 by the end of the third.
Gordon opened the fourth quarter with a basket to pull the Yellow Jackets within two points, but Trotwood scored 14 of the next 18.
“It stems from our defense,” Trotwood coach Rocky Rockhold said of the team’s quick outburst. “I think the least we’ve scored all year is 75 against a very good Centerville team that protects the rim. …Until we get our defense going, we’re going to have games like that where it’s nip and tuck.
“I thought defensively, we got them to make mistakes, which we converted. We didn’t give up second-chance shots. I thought tonight, we really took some pride in guarding, and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Trotwood has won every conference game by at least 18 points (though it lost to GWOC member Wayne by three points in overtime in a nonconference game on Dec. 28).
Taborn led Sidney with a career-high 23 points, 15 of which came in the first quarter. Roberts finished with 13 and Gordon finished with 10.
“I thought Darren had a good game, and Ratez — without him playing (inside), we would be lost,” Willoughby said. “I thought our subs all played good too. Keith Lee did what he’s supposed to do, and Josiah (Hudgins) had a good game.”
Rockhold was pleased with the Rams holding Gordon, a Virginia Tech commit, to 10 points.
“That kid is a phenomenal kid, and we love competing against him,” Rockhold said. “Our guys love playing against him. Our game plan coming in was to do what we call ‘hot’ and double-team him every time he touches the ball. Allow him the opportunity to pass the ball. If he ends up with 25 assists and you lose, then so be it. You can’t let him get 25 (points) and then 10 assists.
“… I thought part of that run late, we really wore (Sidney) out. They were tired. There was a couple of possessions late where some of their guys didn’t even go to the other end.”
Davis, who is committed to Wisconsin-Green Bay, led the Rams with 36 points. Keontae Huguely finished with 14 and Justin Stephens scored 10.
The team traded baskets early, but Sidney went on a big run in the first quarter to take the lead for most of the rest of the half.
Hudgins and Taborn hit consecutive baskets to give Sidney a 14-9 lead with 4:26 left in the first quarter. Taborn made a jumper and followed with a 3 from the left corner to put Sidney up 19-13 with 2:42 left. Taborn made a jumper, Trey Werntz made a 3 and Dominick Durr made a pair of free throws in the final minute of the quarter to push Sidney’s lead to 28-17.
“We thought it was going to be Ratez getting a lot of those easy buckets there early because of how (Trotwood) rotates up, but Darren did a great job of finding the open spot, surveying the floor and finding where the cuts should be,” Willoughby said.
Davis scored six points in the first 2:30 of the second quarter to help Trotwood go on a 10-3 run and pull within 31-27. The Yellow Jackets responded with a 10-6 run and took a 41-33 lead with 2:03 left after a basket by Lee.
The Rams dominated the rest of the second quarter, though. Davis hit a 3 from the left corner with 29 seconds left to give Trotwood its first lead of the game at 42-41 and made a put-back at the buzzer to put the Rams ahead by one point at halftime.
It was the last GWOC crossover game of the season for the Yellow Jackets, who will resume playing GWOC North opponents on Tuesday at home against Tippecanoe. First, though, will be a home nonconference contest with Wapakoneta on Monday.
“If we don’t play right, it will be another game of wondering what the heck we are doing,” Willoughby said of playing Wapakoneta. “If we come and play and do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be okay. They’ve got two or three shooters …and a good surrounding cast. They know how to play, no matter what style they’re playing.”
Monday and Tuesday’s games will be the first of five in an eight-day stretch.
“We’ve got a tough stretch coming up here,” Willoughby said. “We’ve got a stretch coming up where we’ve got a lot of home games, and we’ve got to take advantage of it.”