CENTERVILLE — Sidney struggled shooting in the first half of a Division I sectional semifinal against Kettering Fairmont on Saturday in Centerville.
The Yellow Jackets’ solution: get running — literally.
Sidney, the sectional’s No. 3 seed, did a lot more running and sped things up in the second half. The Yellow Jackets pushed their lead to as many as 10 points, and though the Firebirds hit two baskets in the final five seconds, Sidney held on for a 60-59 victory to advance to a sectional final.
“They move on offense like nobody we’ve played so far,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said of Fairmont. “… They can shoot the ball. When you can shoot 3s like that, 10 points is nothing. Ten points is really nothing anymore since the kids have gotten so proficient shooting the ball.”
Luckily for Sidney, its speed allowed the squad to get a lead and force Fairmont to shoot more 3-pointers to try to get back in it late. The Yellow Jackets overcame a 22-17 halftime deficit and took a 47-37 lead midway through the fourth.
“Us picking the tempo up allowed us to get some easy baskets,” Willoughby said. “We talked about us needing to get the game going up-and-down a little bit. …I think that was a big difference.”
Sidney’s guards took advantage of the faster pace and found many baskets on drives. Senior guard Darren Taborn scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half, senior guard Dominick Durr scored eight of his 10 points in the second half and sophomore guard Devin Taborn scored seven of his 10 points in the second half.
“They moved me into the post because I had a mismatch in the post, so that helped us get more buckets (in the second half),” Darren Taborn said.
“… I think it takes all of us to play together. We all come to compete, and that’s what I like about this team. We all fight to the end, and you see the result. We got the W.”
Fairmont, the sectional’s No. 10 seed, finishes 9-14 overall. The squad had beaten No. 5 seed Wayne and No. 1 seed Centerville in Greater Western Ohio Conference games earlier this month.
“It’s not that we thought we were going to win this, but we expect to win this, with the way we battle and the way we’re playing,” Willoughby said. “We want to be able to come out and compete against anyone that comes our way, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Sidney (19-4) advances to face Stebbins in a Div. I sectional final on Thursday in Centerville. Stebbins (18-5) beat Franklin 88-78 in Saturday’s last semifinal in Centerville.
The Yellow Jackets beat the No. 9 seed Indians 60-56 on Dec. 10 and 72-59 on Jan. 24 in Miami Valley League games.
“They’re really similar to Fairmont with the three guards that can play on the perimeter,” Willoughby said. “Their defense bothered us a little bit down there until we figured it out.
“There’s no game for us that’s going to be easy. I’m just used to it now. We keep on battling. We’ve done it all year. We battle, we battle, we battle. We make mistakes but we’ve got enough kids that can cover for others.”
A win on Thursday would mark the third consecutive year Sidney has won two tournament games to advance to the third round.
“We have to go through the week of practice focused and come back here focused and ready to play,” Taborn said.
Fairmont led 22-17 at halftime but the Yellow Jackets scored the first six points of the third to take a 23-22 lead. The Firebirds tied it 25-25, but Lathan Jones scored two baskets and made a free throw after being fouled on the second to give Sidney a 30-25 lead with 3:26 left.
“We had to sit down and play defense better (in the second half),” Taborn said. “We did, and we got everybody to crash the boards.”
Fairmont pulled within 35-32 by the end of the quarter and scored the first point of the fourth. Dominick Durr made a basket with 7:13 left to give Sidney a 37-33 lead, then junior guard Cedric Johnson made a basket and followed with a steal and another basket to increase the lead to eight points with 6:32 left.
“That was great by Cedric,” Willoughby said. “That shows our (depth). He’s our ninth player (off the bench). I always tell him I wish I could get him in more, but to his credit, that’s the type of kid he is. He stays in the game and does what he’s supposed to do, and that’s how you win, with kids like that. He’ll be a big key for us next year.”
Sidney later boosted its lead to 10 points but Malachi Parker hit a 3 with 3:38 left while Kaleb Hall was simultaneously fouled by Jaden Swiger. Hall made two foul shots to cut the gap to five, then Parker made a basket 20 seconds later to cut the gap to 47-46.
Sidney scored the next four points to re-take control. Durr made two free throws with 29.1 seconds left to push the team’s lead to 60-54, but Danye’ Lewis-Buycks made a jumper with five seconds left.
The Yellow Jackets tried to inbound the ball instead off letting the clock run out, and the pass went out-of-bounds. Keon Wright took an inbounds pass and made an uncontested 3 at the buzzer to narrow the final gap to one point.
“They did a good job fighting back, but we made some silly mistakes that we’ve got to clean up,” Willoughby said. “A couple of shots there (late) we didn’t execute.”
Fairmont started the game with an 8-1 run which Lewis-Buycks capped off with a basket in the paint with 4:10 left in the first.
Sidney got going on offense after that, as Darren Taborn hit a 3 and Avante Martin made a basket in the next 30 seconds. Camden Vordemark hit a basket on a drive straight up the middle with 44.5 seconds left to tie it 12-12, and the teams traded free throws to a 13-13 tie at the end of the quarter.
The Firebirds took control again with a run in the middle of the second. Hall made a 3 with 5:22 left, then Tank Gant made a basket two minutes later and Dasan Doucet made a basket with 2:52 left to give Fairmont a 22-15 lead.
Jones made a basket with 2:31 left and neither team scored the rest of the half.
Parker led the Firebirds with 16 points while Wright scored 14 and Hall scored 12. Fairmont shot 20 for 50 (40 percent) from the floor and had 19 turnovers, most of which came in the second half.