XENIA — Sidney hasn’t struggled to find an identity in its first season since graduating all-time leading scorer Andre Gordon, who is now playing at Texas A&M.
The Yellow Jackets are fast, have multiple players that shoot well and have several players that can leap and get rebounds.
What they are not is tall or exceptionally lengthy. And while Xenia is struggling to find an identity in its first season without all-time leading scorer Samari Curtis, the Buccaneers are one thing: big and tall.
Xenia’s superior size caused many problems in a Miami Valley League game on Tuesday, but Sidney overcame the problems and held on to earn a 52-48 victory to stay undefeated.
The Yellow Jackets (5-0, 5-0 MVL Valley) will try to stay undefeated on Friday when they host Troy in a key early-season MVL game. The upstart Trojans improved to 5-1 overall and 4-1 in MVL play by beating Vandalia-Butler 63-41 on Tuesday.
Xenia (0-6, 0-5) has several tall players in 6-foot-5 junior forward Zack Gaither, 6-5 junior center Kenji Ward, 6-5 junior forward Matt Caupp, 6-4 center and University of Cincinnati football recruit Gavin Gerhardt and 6-3 freshman guard Shawn Thigpen. Most of those players are well-built — like Gerhardt, who was recruited by Cincinnati as an offensive tackle.
“There were two things that we were concerned about going into this game,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “First was that we did not have school today (due to a snow day) and we were coming down to Xenia on a Tuesday night. And number two was their size.”
Sidney 6-3 senior Trey Werntz is the team’s tallest player, and he typically plays as a wing guard. Senior Lathan Jones, junior Avante Martin and sophomore Jaden Swiger are all 6-2 or 6-1 and are the team’s post players. They’re all inexperienced and are seeing a lot of (or any) varsity playing minutes for the first time.
Martin held his own against Xenia’s post players and finished with 10 points on 5 for 7 shooting from the floor. He also had a team-high seven rebounds.
Sidney got out to a 13-10 lead after one quarter, and Dominick Durr hit a basket at the buzzer to give the team a 27-21 lead at halftime. Camden Vordemark played a big role in helping the squad take a lead into the locker room, as he scored nine points off the bench in the second quarter, including two 3-pointers.
“He played outstanding,” Willoughby said of Vordemark. “Solid minutes for us and he made no turnovers and made some buckets and also got a couple of rebounds. We told the kids that there are nine or 10 guys who can play and the hot hand will be on the floor and not on the bench.”
Both teams traded baskets in the third quarter until Xenia guard Dylan Hoosier nailed a 3 and then hit a jumper at the buzzer to tie the game at 34-34.
Both teams made numerous turnovers in the third as they tried to force action on offense. Xenia was trying to find open players cutting to the basket and threw the ball away several times to the dismay of coach Kent Anderson while Sidney had good looks at the basket but had too many passes and shots get deflected by Xenia’s big post players.
The hot hand for Sidney in the fourth was Durr, who scored eight of his 10 points in the quarter. Durr got things going in the fourth as he scored the first four points of the quarter, with two coming on a jumper and two coming on a layup after a steal.
Darren Taborn made two 3-pointers midway through the quarter and Durr made a basket with 2:30 left to give Sidney a 50-44 lead. After Thigpen made a basket, Sidney started playing keep away with the ball. The Yellow Jackets ate off a lot of time while Xenia pressed but failed to get a steal.
The Buccaneers finally got the ball without about 1:20 left, and Hoosier made a layup after a steal to cut the gap to 50-48.
Durr made two big free throws with 27 seconds left to seal the win, and Xenia couldn’t get its offense going in the final seconds.
Taborn led the Yellow Jackets with 15 points.
Thigpen and Hoosier each scored nine points for Xenia while Gaither had eight points and six rebounds.