VANDALIA — After falling in a nailbiter at Tippecanoe on Jan. 5, Sidney resolved not to lose another Miami Valley League game.
A month later, the team hasn’t — and it is hoping not to against the Red Devils next week.
Sidney pulled away late to beat Vandalia-Butler 57-45 in the second game of a girls/boys doubleheader on Friday at the Student Activity Center to improve to 14-5 overall and 12-4 in MVL play. It was the ninth straight win for the Yellow Jackets, which are scheduled to host St. Marys Memorial in a nonleague game on Saturday.
“We’re doing a good job at (our goal),” Sidney junior guard A’Zon Steele, who scored a game-high 18 points, said. “We’ve got a couple more games to go.”
That includes a rematch with Tippecanoe, which scored the last seven points in the final minute to win 60-57 on Jan. 5 in Tipp City.
St. Marys (11-5) has won four of its last five games since losing to Dublin Jerome in overtime on Jan. 14 in the Fort Loramie MLK Classic. The Roughriders are led by 6-foot-7 senior center Evan Angstmann, who is averaging 22.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
“I’m not sure about tomorrow,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “They’re an excellent team. We’re going to have to play one heck of a game just to be in it. We’ll give an effort. …We’ll see how it goes. The Tipp game is more important than tomorrow. If everyone’s okay, we’re going to give it a good effort.”
Steele and fellow junior guard Julius Spradling each took hard falls on the floor on Friday and sported ice packs after the game. It was a sign of the physicalness Sidney played with late.
The Yellow Jackets led 24-17 at halftime — and could have led by 10 if a long 3 by Tucker Herron at the end of the second quarter was ruled before the buzzer.
The Aviators rallied in the third and tied it 36-36. Butler took a 44-43 lead with about six minutes left in the fourth, but Sidney switched its defensive schemes, started creating turnovers and pulled away. Butler didn’t make a field goal the rest of the night.
“We were in man most of the game, and when we went zone, we started to get our hands on passes, get steals and get out on runs and get easy fast-break layups,” Steele said.
Junior guard Jayce Daniel made a jumper with 5:19 left to give Sidney the lead for good at 45-44, then Spradling scored on two fast breaks to push the lead to 49-45 with 4:11 left.
Daniel finished with 12 points.
“Jayce played great. We called a timeout and ran a double-down for him, a special for him, and he came through and hit that shot,” Willoughby said. “From there, I think we took off.”
Spradling made a shot off the glass with 2:13 left on a pass from Steele to increase the gap to 52-45. Spradling later capped off the win with a fast break in the final 10 seconds.
Spradling finished with 14 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter. He’s emerging as the team’s closer late in games thanks in part to his speed.
“He’s good at that. He gets a deflection, and gets it and goes,” Willoughby said. “Or if somebody else gets it, he’s down the floor before anybody else.”
Sidney lost 50-38 to Butler on Jan. 29 in a game in a stretch in which they lost three of four games. Willoughby said he was proud of the team’s effort on Friday, especially when Butler rallied.
“The ways they were scoring on us was offensive rebounding and foul shots,” Willoughby said of the Aviators, who had 17 offensive rebounds. “… It didn’t seem like they were really getting their first attempt to go in. They were getting their second, third attempts to go in.
“… What hurt us (in the third) was our offense and our turnovers. I think we had two or three turnovers in a row where they had bust outs. We called a timeout to get ourselves together. We told them to still be aggressive. Next thing you know, it’s boom-boom-boom-boom.”
Steele is leading the MVL with an average of 17.3 points per game and is also averaging 2.6 assists, 1.7 steals and 4.1 rebounds. Like all of Sidney’s players, he’s active all over the floor.
“Real great game,” Willoughby said. “He made some spectacular layups today and a couple of really nice passes where he got himself caught in the air, stayed in the air for a while until somebody made a cut, and he was able to deliver a couple of really nice assists.”
Mitchell Davis added nine points for Sidney, eight of which came in the first half. Ethan New added four. Willoughby credited both, and for Gavin Gillum and Herron for playing well off the bench.
“I thought Mitchell got us going in the first half. Ethan struggled a little bit, then the roles reversed the second half,” Willoughby said. “They were more aware of where Mitchell was in the second half, and when he got the ball, they were coming down on him. Ethan did a good job defensively, and did a good job finding the open man. He had a big offensive rebound and put-back for us (late in the third).”
Tippecanoe (17-2, 15-1) has won 13 consecutive games, the last five of which by 14 or more points.
Steele said the matchup with the Red Devils on Friday will be tough, but he said Sidney has continued to gain stamina as the season has progressed, and said the team is looking forward to the rematch.
“At the beginning of the season, we weren’t too much in shape, but we started taking practices more seriously, started getting more conditioning in,” Steele said. “I think it’s paying off.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.