VANDALIA — Sidney couldn’t keep its late-season winning streak going against the state’s top-ranked team on Friday. But despite a lopsided loss, the Yellow Jackets were happy to have advanced to the game.
Centerville dominated and ended Sidney’s season with a 76-25 victory in a Division I district semifinal on Friday at Vandalia-Butler’s Student Activity Center.
The Elks (22-3) were ranked No. 1 in the final state Associated Press Div. I poll of the season. They won the 2021 D-I state title and finished as runner-up last year after winning their first 29 games.
“They’re great,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “It all starts with their defensive pressure. A lot of hands on balls. They’re so big, that if you do get by your guy, there’s two more. They’re great defensively, and I think that separates them from a lot of teams.
“The other thing is, they run their offense so well. Their movement is great, and they shoot the ball well. It’s going to take a really good team to beat them in the tournament.”
Junior guard Jonathan Powell, who has at least 10 offers from D-I universities, scored 21 points. Gabe Cupps, the son of Centerville coach Brook Cupps and an Indiana signee, also scored 21. Cupps was voted as Ohio’s Mr. Basketball last season.
Sidney scored the game’s first basket , but the Elks built a 16-6 lead by the end of the quarter, then followed with a 29-8 advantage in the second. Senior guard Collin O’Connor, who transferred from Tecumseh and scored 24 points in a game against Sidney last year, hit a 3 at the second-quarter buzzer to ensure the second half started with a running clock.
“Going into this game, our number one priority was to handle the press,” Willoughby said. “I think we did in the back court. I don’t think we had many turnovers in the back court.
“But the problem was when we got over half court. We were sped up instead of calming down and running through. But that’s what they do; that’s why they press, to get you to take some shots that you shouldn’t so they can go to the other end.”
It was the first district semifinal appearance since 2019 for Sidney, which finishes 10-15 overall. The squad improved to 7-5 after a win at Fairborn on Jan. 10 but lost its next nine before beating Greenville 69-59 in its regular-season finale.
Sidney, which was the Dayton D-I sectional’s No. 14 seed, beat Miami Valley League rival and No. 11 seed Vandalia-Butler 54-47 in a sectional semifinal, then beat No. 15 Monroe 51-48 in a sectional final on Wednesday.
“I’m glad four our seniors,” Willoughby said. “The second half of the season didn’t go as well as we planned. That was our own fault, but I’m happy for the seniors, that they can leave here with a good mindset.”
Sidney senior wing guard Sam Reynolds led the Yellow Jackets with 18 points, including 8-of-10 free-throw attempts.
“Sam has played like one of the top players in the area for the last month,” Willoughby said. “… I think something turned on for him, and he’s been dominant in the last month.”
Sidney will lose four seniors to graduation, including Reynolds, who was a first team all-Miami Valley League selection. Reynolds averaged about 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, two assists and two steals per game.
The Yellow Jackets will also lose guards Myles Vordemark, Jy Foster-Wheeler and Elijah VanHook. Vordemark was a second team all-MVL selection as a junior and averaged 12.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists this season.
“We’ve had four good years with those guys in the program,” Willoughby said. “Two league titles, some nice tournament wins. They have been a big part.”
Sidney is set to return several key players, including A’zon Steele, who averaged 9.3 points in the first half of the season and was forced to sit the rest of the year due to OHSAA transfer rules.
“It’s a nice group to build off on. We’ve just got to put the time in,” Willoughby said. “We’re good enough to compete if we put the time in. We’re not good enough to play against the really, really good teams if we don’t.
“Many guys take advantage of the things we do (in the offseason). A’zon’s a leader in the gym, Julius Spradling comes in all the time, Ethan New and Sam New and Gavin Gillum are there all the time. Hopefully, we get a lot of kids in the program to follow them.”