SIDNEY — Sidney showed in many games early in the season it is capable of winning fast-paced games based on a transition offense.
The Yellow Jackets showed on Friday they don’t need many fast-break opportunities to be able to win.
After failing to keep up with West Carrollton early in a Miami Valley League game, Sidney slowed things down and rallied to win 64-48 to stay undefeated.
The Yellow Jackets (9-0, 7-0 MVL Valley Division) trailed by 10 points in the second quarter but outscored West Carrollton 22-1 over a 10-minute period in the second half to pull away.
It’s the first time since the 1978-79 season the program has started 9-0 — and comes the season after the team lost five seniors to graduation, including its all-time leading scorer.
“Every year is a new season,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “Every year, you’re dealing with something new. I love those guys from the past few years, but these guys are trying to do what they need to win. It’s not the same team or the same look, but I give our kids credit. They come fighting and sticking it out so far.”
The Yellow Jackets held West Carrollton leading scorer Kalen McKinney to four points. He entered the game averaging an MVL-best 18.1 points per game while West Carrollton (5-3, 5-2) was averaging 61.9 points per league game.
“We were denying (McKinney) the ball and were playing our gap defense on everybody else,” Willoughby said. “We weren’t denying their other guys because we didn’t want to give them a step on us if we got in position. We were staying in our gaps and trying to take penetration away.”
Sidney faced a significant height disadvantage as the Pirates started three players 6-foot-3 or taller. Sidney’s post players are 6-2 or shorter, but the group played well, especially as the game progressed. Sophomore forward Avante Martin scored 12 points while senior forward Lathan Jones scored nine.
“I thought our post players were big today,” Willoughby said. “Avante, Lathan and Jaden (Swiger) all had big moments. Jaden had a big spurt where he came in and scored three quick baskets in a couple of minutes. I feel like if we’re getting better as a team, that’s where were getting better at, our post play.”
Martin led the squad with 11 rebounds while Jones had five.
“They were pretty tall,” Martin said. “I got blocked a couple of times, I’m not going to lie. …We just had to play straight up. If he’s not in the paint, just let him shoot it.”
Sidney finished the second quarter on a 12-2 run to tie it 33-33 at halftime. The teams traded points early in the quarter but Sidney finished on a big run to take an eight-point lead into the fourth.
Jones opened the third with a short jumper to give Sidney its first lead but McKinney made a basket with 4:30 left to put the Pirates ahead 41-39.
West Carrollton didn’t score again until the 5:36 mark of the fourth while Sidney scored the last 10 points of the third to take a 49-41 advantage. Martin made two baskets during the run, including one on a lucky tip when he and two West Carrollton players were going for a rebound.
“I didn’t even know it went in,” Martin said. “All I heard was everybody start yelling. I got hit in the eye on that and I walked away, then I heard my name called.”
Swiger made a basket in the paint with 32 seconds left, then Devin Taborn made a pair of free throws with 6:05 left in the fourth to cap off the 12-0 run and put Sidney ahead 51-41.
Darren Taborn led Sidney with 17 points, Camden Vordemark scored nine and Trey Werntz scored eight.
The teams traded baskets early, but West Carrollton took control by the end of the first quarter.
After Darren Taborn made a layup with 5:22 left to cut West Carrollton’s lead to 10-9, Sidney didn’t score for the next 2:30. The Pirates rattled off nine points during that time, with Jye’Ton Howard capping the run off with a 3 with 2:57 left.
“When they came out and hit those early 3s we were a little worried but we told the guys to stay with the game plan,” Willoughby said. “We said ‘Alright, they hit a couple 3s, but let’s see if they can do that a whole game.’ We were more worried about their penetration.”
Stanley Shrivers scored 14 points in the first quarter but didn’t score again until the final minutes of the fourth. He finished with a game-high 18 points. Howard finished with 11.
Sidney scored the last three points of the first to pull within 23-16, but Howard made a 3 from the left wing with 5:38 left to push West Carrollton’s lead to 31-21.
The Yellow Jackets slowed the pace of their offense. The changes allowed the squad to limit turnovers that helped fueled the Pirates’ early success.
“I thought we handled the ball better, so it probably seemed like we were taking more time off,” Willoughby said. “We weren’t making one pass and them getting a steal or us trying to hurry something. …After the first few minutes, I don’t think they intercepted any more passes. I think we handled that pretty good.”
Vordemark hit a pair of free throws with 5:10 left, then made a 3 from the left wing to bring Sidney within 31-28 with 4:53 left.
Howard made a basket with 3:56 left to push the lead to five points, but West Carrollton didn’t score again in the half. Darren Taborn made a long jumper from just inside the right wing with 2:42 left, then Devin Taborn hit an NBA-range 3 from the left wing to cap off the 12-2 run and tie it 33-33.
Willoughby said he was pleased with Devin Taborn and junior Cedric Johnson, who split time at point guard. Johnson normally plays sparingly off the bench but played a lot due to the absence of Dominick Durr. Durr, a senior guard, injured a wrist in practice last week and injured his other wrist in a hard fall late on Saturday at Tecumseh. He didn’t dress Friday.
“Our depth is a big key for us,” Willoughby said. “Not having a guy like Dominick you’d think would be bad because of his experience, but those two guys played well.”
Sidney will try to keep its hot start to the season going on Tuesday when it travels to Tippecanoe.
The Red Devils lost three games to out-of-state teams in a holiday tournament in Florida between Christmas and New Year’s Day to drop to 6-4 overall. The squad is 5-1 in MVL play, with its lone league loss coming at Stebbins on Dec. 3. Tippecanoe beat West Carrollton 60-47 on Dec. 13.
“We just have to keep playing as a team, everyone getting along,” Martin said.