GREENVILLE — Postseason banquets are mostly celebrations of the past. But at Sidney’s boys basketball’s banquet last year, Sidney coach John Willoughby had a message about the future for mostly unproven returning players: expectations aren’t changing.
In a Miami Valley League game against Greenville on Friday, expectations were met.
Sidney started a bit slow in its regular-season finale on Friday but took control by the end of the first quarter and cruised to a 56-42 victory over the Green Wave to secure the overall MVL title and MVL Valley Division title outright.
It’s Sidney’s third league championship in the last four years and comes despite heavy graduation losses suffered last year. The Yellow Jackets lost four starters off last season’s record-setting 20-win team, including all-time career leading scorer Andre Gordon, who has already earned a starting role at Texas A&M.
“I give a lot of credit to the seniors,” Willoughby said shortly after the team cut down a net. “They had to play behind a lot really good players through their high school career, and when it was their turn, they turned it up a notch and did an outstanding job this year.”
The group has helped Sidney (18-4, 15-3) to continue to be among the Dayton-area’s best squads. Sidney has won at least 17 games each of the last five years and a total of 74 of the last four years, which is a new program best for a four-year period.
“Coming into the season, not many people thought we could do it,” senior guard Dominick Durr said. “But we did it. …I’m just extremely proud of my team and all my friends for what we did. It’s a big achievement.”
It’s the first overall MVL title for any Sidney team. The school and nine other former Greater Western Ohio Conference schools left to reform the MVL last summer.
Sidney programs have had success winning MVL Valley Division titles so far this year. Seven of nine fall sports won divisional titles, and the school’s boys and girls swimming teams and girls basketball squad have won Valley Division titles this winter.
The 10-team league, which is split into two divisions, awards an overall winner in each sport for the team with the best winning percentage.
“I’m very proud of that,” Willoughby said. “That’s a great accomplishment to win the whole league. …I think we’re a little relieved (to have wrapped it up).
“… I don’t think anybody, no matter what they say, thought we would win the league championship. I’m really proud of the boys hanging in through a tough schedule and a tough league. …We worked out butts off for 22 games.”
The win broke a two-game losing streak, which was Sidney’s first in two years. The Yellow Jackets had a two-game lead in MVL standings a week ago but lost at West Carrollton last Friday and Tippecanoe on Tuesday to fall into a first-place tie with the Pirates.
“We stumbled the last few games but we came into this knowing what we had to do,” Durr said. “It was a little sluggish but we did what we had to.”
West Carrollton lost 65-63 to Stebbins on Friday, and the loss and Sidney’s win secured the Yellow Jackets both the overall MVL and divisional title outright. The Pirates (15-6, 14-4) finish second while Stebbins and Miami Division winner Tippecanoe tied for third in overall standings.
“It was a little discouraging the last couple of weeks with some of our losses, but we did a heck of a job earlier in the year to give us the cushion,” Willoughby said.
“… We’re not a dominant team but we’ve got good depth and we’ve got good defenders. Early on, that got us to that cushion and that lead, and that’s what you play for. People have been talking about, ‘Oh, they’re falling apart,’ but we built that cushion because we play well, and there are other good teams in this league.”
Sidney led by eight points at halftime and scored the first eight points of the third quarter to take a 36-20 lead. Greenville scored the next six points to cut the gap to six, but Jaden Swiger made a layup after a steal and then made a basket and foul shot with 47 seconds left to boost the lead to 41-26 with 47 seconds left.
The Green Wave (5-16, 3-15) came no closer than 12 points in the fourth.
Willoughby started team’s five seniors and played the group for much of the fourth quarter. They went to the bench with 45 seconds left to a loud standing ovation.
Sidney trailed 5-4 after a slow first five minutes but scored seven points over 30 seconds to take an 11-5 lead with 1:46 left in the first.
Greenville held the Yellow Jackets scoreless over the next two minutes, but Camden Vordemark hit a 3 off the glass and followed 10 seconds later with a basket after a steal to put Sidney ahead 16-7 with 6:46 left in the second.
The Green Wave went on a 13-10 run over the next six minutes to pull within six points but Lathan Jones hit a basket in the post with three seconds left to push Sidney’s lead to 28-20 at halftime.
Swiger led Sidney with 12 points while Durr scored 11 and had five steals and four assists. Avante Martin scored eight points and had nine rebounds, three blocks and three steals.
Sidney is the No. 3 seed in the Dayton Div. I sectional and will open tournament play next Saturday when it faces No. 10 Kettering Fairmont at Centerville High School.
The Yellow Jackets will look to hold off the Firebirds, which had won three of their last four games heading into Friday. One of the wins came Tuesday against No. 1 seed Centerville.
Sidney has advanced to district semifinals (formerly known as sectional finals) the last two years and Durr said the team wants to go farther this year.
“It’s going to be tough, but I think we’re going to pull it off,” Durr said.