SIDNEY — Sidney couldn’t have struggled much worse than it did in the first four minutes of a season opener on Tuesday — and couldn’t have succeeded much better in the final eight minutes than it did.
Sidney outscored Fairborn by 20 points in the fourth quarter to run away to a 66-40 victory in a Miami Valley League Valley Division game.
The Yellow Jackets trailed 9-2 early as they couldn’t hit many shots, struggled to get offensive rebounds and struggled to slow Fairborn. But they regrouped, tied it early in the second, took a seven-point lead by halftime and finished off the Skyhawks with a 21-1 scoring edge in the fourth.
“I was a little surprised how — I don’t think nervous is the right word, but jacked up we were,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “Some of the shots we missed early, I thought we got the ball where we wanted it. We were able to get by them on penetration, we just weren’t able to finish well.
“Once we started scoring and were able to press, we got the tempo where we wanted it.”
Sidney led 37-30 at halftime, but Fairborn scored the first five points of the third to pull back in it. The Yellow Jackets finished with an 8-4 advantage to take a 45-39 lead into the fourth.
After struggling to score the last two minutes of the third, Sidney hit nearly all its shots in the first six minutes of the second.
Sam Reynolds and Myles Vordemark each made 3-pointers, then Mitchell Davis dunked and A’zon Steele made a basket in the paint to give Sidney a 55-39 lead.
Fairborn didn’t score in the fourth until a free throw with 1:31 left. The Skyhawks went cold from the floor, and didn’t get many second-chance shots, as Davis, Reynolds and the rest of the squad rebounded well defensively.
“The second half was a lot better,” Willoughby said. “We went zone to start the second half, and they hit a 3 to start the half. …They scored seven points fast, then only scored (three) the rest of the game.
“I think that’s the way we’re going to be, just because of our size. We’re going to give up some things at times, but we can play extremely well in spurts. We can score 10, 15 points just like that.”
Reynolds, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, led Sidney with 19 points, 10 of which came in the fourth. He’s one of three returning starters and was a first team all-Miami Valley League selection last year.
“He struggled with some of his shots early on, and to still finish with 19, that’s how good he is,” Willoughby said.
Davis and Jayce Daniel each scored 12, while Julius Spradling scored 11 and Vordemark scored eight.
“I thought we shared the ball well, and I think we broke their defense down with our dribble penetration,” Willoughby said. “I think we’re going to be able to do that. We have four or five guys on the perimeter that can do that. And we’re a good 3-point shooting team.”
After closing the gap to 14-9 by the end of the first quarter, Sidney scored the first five points of the second, quickly took a lead and pushed it to pushed it to seven points by halftime.
Daniel, a sophomore guard, was a big spark off the bench in the second. He scored 10 points in the quarter, while Spradling, a sophomore guard who’s a returning starter, scored nine.
Daniel, who is 5-11, was a big boost defensively and helped to deflect passes and create turnovers.
“We pressed well,” Willoughby said. “We’re not very tall, but our length in our arms and our anticipation defensively is pretty strong. That lets us get a lot of deflections and a lot of steals and easy baskets.
“… Jayce Daniel came in and just gave us a lift there. He turned things around for us. He got some offensive put-backs and hit a couple of shots and got some deflections on defense.
“We’re not too deep, but the kids that we bring off our bench are pretty good basketball players.”
The Yellow Jackets are scheduled to travel to archrival Piqua for an MVL crossover on Friday. The Indians lost 50-35 at Vandalia-Butler in their season opener on Tuesday.
The Indians return several key players from last season, including guards Dre’Sean and Bryson Roberts, who both averaged better than 9.6 points per game last year.
“That should be tough,” Willoughby said of Friday’s matchup. “They’ve got experience. Their guards, they’re good. I like the Roberts kids. They’re good; hopefully we can defend them.”