SIDNEY — Sidney was optimistic heading into its season opener and got off to a hot start. But issues became apparent as the game progressed which coach John Willoughby said need to be addressed.
The Yellow Jackets led by as many as 12 points in the first half but couldn’t hold on and lost 63-59 to Troy in a Miami Valley League game on Friday.
Sidney has four starters back from last season’s 10-15 campaign and is looking to compete for its third MVL title since 2020. The squad was in contention last year before a nine-game losing streak in the second half of the season.
Part of the reason for last season’s losing streak was the loss of A’Zon Steele, who had to miss the second half of the season due to OHSAA transfer rules. Steele (a junior guard) is back, along with senior forward Mitchell Davis, junior guard Julius Spradling and junior guard Jayce Daniel.
The four players averaged a combined 28 points and 14 rebounds per game last year.
“We’ve been looking to those four to lead us,” Willoughby said. “They’ve looked good (in preseason). We were hoping our experience would pay off tonight, but it really didn’t. I don’t think a couple of them got into the offensive groove very well. We’re going to have to look at that and see what’s going on there.”
Troy lost 11 players to graduation from last season’s 18-5 campaign in which it won its first MVL title.
But its lone two returnees each scored in double digits on Friday, as did a Miami East transfer and a varsity newcomer.
Sidney led 29-17 late in the second quarter. The Trojans scored the last six points of the quarter to pull within 33-29 at halftime, though, then briefly took the third and were within a possession the rest of the way.
Sidney managed to hang onto the lead for most of the second half, but it couldn’t in the final minute.
Senior forward Kellen Miller (one of the two returnees) made a wide-open 3-pointer way behind the top of the key to tie it 59-59 with 57 seconds left.
“We should never have given that up,” Willoughby said. “I know he was deep, but still, you’ve got to know the situation.”
The Yellow Jackets turned it over after two players collided, and Miller ripped the ball out of the air. Troy worked it down to Evan Kaiser, who made a layup with about 25 seconds left to give Troy the lead.
Steele forced a 3, and Miller grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He made two free throws to secure it.
Miller, the son of former Troy coach Tim Miller, led the Trojans with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Bryce Haught, a Miami East transfer, finished with 12. Kaiser scored 11 and Brady O’Leary scored 10.
The late turnover after the collision was one of several unforced turnovers Sidney made. The Yellow Jackets had over 15 turnovers, only seven of which were the result of Troy steals.
“We’d get a lead but then would come down and make a turnover, give a layup to a kid who shouldn’t be scoring against us,” Willoughby said. “I think at one point we dribbled it off our knee two or three times in a row when we were up 11.
“I thought we were going to play better defensively. We were just getting beat. We’ve got to improve on that.”
Steele led Sidney with 19 points. Davis scored 16, junior guard Ethan New scored nine, Spradling scored eight and Daniel scored seven.
Those five were Sidney’s starters; no player off the bench scored.
“We certainly didn’t execute all the time,” Willoughby said. “We’ve got a bad habit of going individual instead of working on plays. (Troy) did a good job of running their plays.
“… We tried to establish Mitch inside early and got a couple of things for him. But overall, we didn’t take advantage of that enough.”
The Yellow Jackets will hope for better performances on the road next week. They’re scheduled to travel to Tecumseh on Tuesday and then to Xenia on Thursday for a girls/boys varsity doubleheader.
“We’ve got to get better, bottom line,” Willoughby said.
Russia beats Jackson Center to start season
Similarly to last season, the Raiders rallied to start the season with a win over Jackson Center in a key early-season Shelby County Athletic League matchup. Russia beat the Tigers 53-45 on Friday in Jackson Center.
The Tigers led 12-4 early in the first quarter before Russia battled back to take a 23-22 halftime lead. Jackson Center started the third quarter with a 9-4 advantage to take a four-point lead, but Russia then went on a 22-7 scoring run in an eight-minute stretch to secure the win.
Felix Francis led Russia with 19 points. He scored 12 in the second half, including eight in the fourth quarter. Brayden Monnin scored 12 and Vince Borchers added seven; Monnin hit 4-of-6 free throws in the fourth and Borchers hit 3-of-4. Benjamin York also scored seven points.
Lucas Heitkamp scored 16 points for Jackson Center, Lucas Hartle scored 10, Reed Platfoot scored seven and Carter Klopfenstein scored seven.
The Raiders unofficially had a 41-23 rebounding edge.
Botkins crushes Waynesfield-Goshen to start season
The Trojans dominated in the first game of their first-ever Meyers Tavern Tipoff Classic on Friday in Botkins by beating Waynesfield-Goshen 76-37. They led by 20 points at the end of the first quarter.
Collin Doseck led Botkins with 18, Jordan Herzog scored 11, Rylyn Paul scored 10 and Hunter Lenhart scored 10.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.