Girls basketball: Sidney to face Centerville with district final berth on the line

VANDALIA — After losing two close first-round tournament games three and two years ago and not being able to hold on in the second half of a district semifinal last year, Sidney’s seniors have a last chance to earn a district final berth.

Allie Stockton said they’re not going to waste it.

“It’s about time,” Stockton, a guard, said. “It’s overdue for us seniors.”

Sidney blasted Xenia 66-37 in a Division I sectional final on Monday at Vandalia-Butler’s Student Activity Center to advance to a district semifinal for the second consecutive season. It was the first tournament game for the Yellow Jackets (19-4), which took a first-round bye.

Sidney advances to face Centerville (16-7) in a district semifinal on Thursday in Vandalia.

Xenia kept up some in the first quarter and scored four straight points to cut the gap to 16-10 with less than 10 seconds left in the first quarter.

But senior guard Lexee Brewer flew down the court, made a layup and drew a foul with 2.5 seconds left. She missed her free throw, but senior forward Regan Clark grabbed a long rebound and made a midrange jumper as time expired to boost the lead to 20-10.

The Yellow Jackets scored the first 12 points of the second quarter and gradually pulled away further, eventually pushing the margin over 35 early in the fourth to start its third running-clock victory over the Buccaneers this season.

“It was a little rocky there early, and I think we were maybe a little bit rusty that first half of the first quarter,” Sidney coach Jamal Foster said. “… It’s been nine days since we played. Once we settled in and started playing our game, we started to feel comfortable and started playing better on the defensive end, which led to easy layups.”

Sidney is in the midst of one of its best four-year stretches in program history. The squad has won MVL Valley Division titles the last four years, overall league titles the last two and has won at least 15 games each season.

But the team suffered a three-point loss in a first-round game in 2020 and a one-point loss in a first-round game a year later. The Yellow Jackets won two tournament games last year and had a 10-point lead over Bellbrook in the third quarter of a district semifinal but couldn’t keep hold of it with a shorthanded roster in foul trouble.

This chance at a district final berth comes with a roster at full strength.

With junior guard Kiara Hudgins back on the court for the last three weeks, Sidney at last has the eight-player rotation it had in the first half of last season, before injuries and eligibility issues cut into the roster.

“We’ve been building for this part of the season all year,” Foster said. “We’ve been talking about getting healthy, how it’s a marathon, not a sprint. To see multiple girls in double digits and see everybody contributing, that only makes us more dangerous on the offensive end.

“Today was very encouraging, starting the tournament the way we did.”

Stockton, who scored a game-high 24 points on Monday, leads the team with an average of 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds, in addition to averaging three steals and two assists per game.

Sophomore guards Jordan Scully and Larkyn Vordemark each average over 10 points per game and about two steals per game. Vordemark averages 4.2 rebounds and Scully averages a little less than three. Senior guard Lexee Brewer averages 4.5 points, 3.5 steals and 3.2 assists.

Senior forward Regan Clark averages seven points and six rebounds per game, and sophomore forward Kelis McNeal averages seven rebounds, four points and two steals.

Hudgins and junior Kimora Johnson add depth at guard off the bench and bring added speed and defensive ability.

“The goal is to get everybody, or at least as many as we can, in the game,” Stockton said. “We want to get as many people in double digits as we can.”

Stockton scored nine in each the first and second quarter to get the squad going on Monday.

“She was locked in,” Foster said. “… She stepped up. These sort of games are starting to seem a little bit normal. I think when you have a senior like that who’s hungry, statement games like this matter. I think she’ll be ready on Thursday.”

Vordemark finished with 13 points, Scully scored 12, Brewer scored eight and Clark scored seven.

The Elks, which finished third in the Greater Western Ohio Conference this season, pulled away late to beat Chaminade-Julienne 48-36 in the first game on Monday at Butler.

Senior guard Kendal George has averaged 14.1 points per game for Centerville while senior Anna Grim averages 13.6 points per game. Caroline McDowell, a sophomore guard, averages 9.4 points and 2.9 rebounds. Senior forward Emily Grim averages nine points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

“They’re a well-respected program and have been for years,” Foster said. “They have a girl who can stroke it with George. We’re going to have to slow that down. They have some solid ball handlers, and the Grim sisters are very solid on the interior.

“They do some things well. We want to try to play our game well, disrupt some things and get the tempo flowing.”

Sidney is averaging nearly 16 steals per game, and Stockton said creating turnovers will be key on Thursday.

“We’re going to have to apply our defensive pressure and see what they can do against it,” Stockton said.