SIDNEY — Ending a busy one-week stretch with another victory came almost effortlessly for Sidney on Monday. The Yellow Jackets dominated crosstown rival Lehman Catholic from the start in a 72-37 victory, which is the team’s fifth since last Monday.
“We’re just some dogs,” Sidney junior Lathan Jones said to describe the strength it took to get through the busy stretch. “Just some dogs, that’s all it is. We just want to work.”
Sidney frustrated the Cavaliers for most of the game on defense and flew over them on offense. The Yellow Jackets had at least 11 dunks, including a windmill dunk by Andre Gordon in the first half that brought most of the half-filled gym to its feet.
Gordon, a Virginia Tech commit, led all scorers with 20 points. Senior forward Ratez Roberts and senior guard Keith Lee each added 10.
Jones added eight points off the bench, including a pair of high-flying dunks.
“When I get in, it’s real fun,” Jones said. “When I get a few dunks in, it hypes everyone up and gets us going. Getting in, doing my job, doing anything to help the team is what I’ve got to do.”
Jones, a 6-foot-3 forward, is in his first season playing high school basketball, and Willoughby said he’s been pleased with his progress. Jones has been a reliable inside defender and rebounder when needed.
“I think the biggest thing about this stretch is that we improved on our subs, and he’s one of them,” Sidney coach John Willoughby. “Lathan has played two or three games really well, Trey (Werntz) came in playing well and Dominick (Durr), too. Those three have kind of got us going the last two or three games in this stretch. I think this stretch of long games has helped those guys get some more minutes and trust in their play.”
It was the final nonconference game of the season for Sidney (16-3), which has three Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division games left before starting tournament play later this month. The Yellow Jackets will travel to archrival Piqua on Friday, host Vandalia-Butler next Tuesday and travel to Greenville on Feb. 15.
“We’re going to need some good practices, hard practices,” Jones said of preparing for the last three games. “If we work like a team, we should win anything.”
Victories over all three opponents would clinch Sidney the North title outright. The Yellow Jackets, which are tied for first place with Butler, have won at least a share of the league title for the last three years.
“That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Willoughby said. “You come down to the end of your season where you’ve got to win the last three games to win it.
“… It’d be a really nice thing if this senior class did accomplish (winning three straight). I don’t think it’s been done here before. That would be big for that group, when people come back and talk about the 2019 class and their accomplishments, it’d be nice if they’d win that third league title and make a nice tournament run.”
Friday’s game will be Sidney’s last before the tournament draw on Sunday. The Yellow Jackets are among the favorites to earn the Dayton Division I sectional’s No. 1 seed, along with Springfield and Butler.
Springfield, Sidney and Butler are the only Dayton-area Div. I teams that have lost to only one other Dayton-area D-I squad. All other squads have at least two losses to other teams in the sectional.
“It’s puzzling. I don’t feel comfortable with it this year for some reason,” Willoughby said of trying to rank other D-I area teams. “I think there’s a lot of good teams, and while some teams have four, five or six losses, but schedule-wise have played a lot of good round of (out-of-area) teams. I’m sure coaches will take that into consideration.”
Sidney took an 11-2 lead by the halfway mark of the first quarter and cruised from there. The Yellow Jackets had six dunks in the first half — including one each by Jones and Gordon in the final minute of the second — and led 36-17 at halftime.
The Yellow Jackets pushed the lead to 53-25 by the end of the third and opened the fourth with a 10-3 run. Bench players for both teams played in the game’s last four minutes.
Bryce Kennedy led Lehman with 10 points while Luke Frantz finished with seven.
“We just wanted to represent ourselves well and take care of ourselves,” Lehman coach Pat Carlisle said. “We looked disciplined in our offensive sets and took our time to get some shots. You want to stay within yourself and do what you do to make sure you have success in the next game.”
The Cavaliers (7-9) will play next on Friday at Lima Perry in Northwest Central Conference action. They’re currently third in NWCC standings.
“Tournament is still a ways away for us,” Carlisle said. “We’ve still got seven more games. We’ve had a very good season in our league and in our games against other Division IV teams, even against Division III teams. Hopefully, we’ve got another three or four weeks left in us.”