VANDALIA — Whether in regular-season matchups with Vandalia-Butler or in tournament games, Sidney’s contests usually go down to the wire at the Student Activity Center.
And they usually go down as wins.
The Yellow Jackets are not predicting those trends will hold in a matchup this Friday with Centerville, the 2021 Division I state champion and 2022 runner-up. But they’re happy they will have a chance to try to continue the trends.
Sidney rallied early in the fourth quarter and fought off a comeback try by Monroe to win a Div. I sectional final 51-48 on Wednesday in Vandalia and advance to a district semifinal against the Elks on Friday.
It’s the third consecutive win for Sidney (10-14), which lost nine games in a row before the current winning streak.
“It feels great,” Sidney senior guard Myles Vordemark said. “It feels great to get a couple of extra games as a senior and put together a winning streak.”
Vordemark scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half to help the squad win. Sam Reynolds, a senior wing guard, scored a game-high 18 points and hit 11-of-15 free-throw attempts. Sophomore guard Julius Spradling scored 10, sophomore guard Jayce Daniel scored five and junior forward Mitchell Davis added two points and a couple blocks.
“We’re playing like we felt we were capable of playing,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “We started the season out well, then something happened and we went in the dumps. But for about the last month, our practices have been better, and we’ve been playing better and together. These last two games have been great.”
Vordemark and Spradling split time guarding Monroe’s Drew Taylor, who averaged nearly 18 points per game. Taylor, a senior guard, scored 11 in the first half and five in the third quarter but managed one free throw in the fourth.
“When you ride them like that the whole game and they don’t let you breathe, that wears you out as an offensive player,” Willoughby said. “He had a good game, but we did a good job on him.”
Monroe (10-14) started working the ball to 6-foot-3 forward Noah Fults in the third quarter. He scored six points in the quarter, but after Willoughby subbed in 5-11 guard Jy Foster-Wheeler to guard Fults in place of Davis, Fults struggled to score. He managed one field goal over the last 12 minutes.
“Mitchell was having a little trouble, so we put Jy back in, and Jy’s a clever defender,” Willoughby said. “He’s not going to go up and block like Mitchell, but he’s quick enough and small enough to get around the post players. Right after we put him in, he made a steal and made a key pass that led to a fast-break foul.”
The teams were tied 24-24 at halftime. They traded baskets to a 35-35 score, but Taylor drove inside and hit a short shot to give Monroe a two-point leading heading into the fourth.
Vordemark and Spradling hit early baskets on drives in the fourth to give Sidney the lead, and Reynolds drew fouls and hit free throws to extend it.
Sidney pushed its lead to six points twice, but Monroe fought back each time.
Eric Snelling drove inside along the right base line and drew a foul with about a minute left, then made two free throws to cut the gap to 48-47.
But Spradling made a put-back on a miss by Davis with about 45 seconds left to give Sidney a three-point lead. Tate Fetrow split a pair of free throws to pull Monroe within 50-48, but the squad fouled Reynolds shortly after an inbounds pass, who split a pair of foul shots to push the gap back to three points.
After a couple timeouts, Monroe ate up about 10 seconds on the last possession. The squad worked it to Taylor, who was guarded by Spradling. Taylor was unable to get a good look and threw up a heave, which bounced off the rim right before the buzzer.
“I thought we played excellent defense at the end, team defense,” Willoughby said. “We didn’t collapse on the drives when they were looking to shoot the 3. Very disciplined on the defensive end the last four or five possessions.
“… We don’t practice (fouling to prevent a last-second shot) much, and we were playing good enough defense, so I didn’t want to get in that situation. I felt pretty good that we were going to be able to go out and defend any of their shooters, and we were.”
Willoughby credited Vordemark for penetrating in the second half.
“Early on they were in a zone, and we weren’t shooting all that great,” Willoughby said. “We have Myles there at the top, and when we have a certain group in, we put Myles at the elbows, and he’s clever enough to get his shots when he needs and is clever enough and a smart enough player to find the open guy on the back side. We like having Myles there; it gives us a lot of options.
“Their perimeter, they were chasing the passes. We always had a guy on the wing open, and Myles is great at finding that guy on the wing.”
Reynolds, who took a hard fall to the floor in the third quarter, played through and hit 6-of-8 free throws in the fourth quarter.
“Sam has played tremendously the last month of the season, the way we know he can play,” Willoughby said. “He became a lot more aggressive on the offensive end, which is what we wanted from him in the beginning. We talk about green lights and doing what you what offensively; Sam had that permission. He didn’t start getting into that until the New Year, and once he started, he’s played tremendous.”
Now the No. 14 seed Yellow Jackets will take on the tall task of the Elks, which are the sectional’s top seed and were ranked No. 1 in Div. I in the final state Associated Press poll of the season.
Centerville (21-3) beat Belmont 79-45 in Wednesday’s first sectional final to advance.
“We’re just going to play our best,” Vordemark said. “Go out there and leave it all on the floor. Hope for the best. They’re a really good team, but we’re going to give it all we’ve got.”
Centerville senior guard Gabe Cupps, an Indiana signee, averages 15.2 points, six assists and five rebounds per game. He was voted as Ohio’s Mr. Basketball last season. Jonathan Powell, a 6-6 guard with at least 10 offers from D-I universities, averages 17 points per game.
“We’re just going to compete,” Willoughby said. “We just want to compete and have fun with it.”
Sidney is 12-5 at the Student Activity Center in its last 17 games at the complex. Eight of the last 11 games have been decided by six points or less.