VANDALIA — Sidney started well in a Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division game against Vandalia-Butler on Tuesday. But a three-point halftime lead turned into an 11-point deficit with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Yellow Jackets’ chances looked slim — but Andre Gordon never doubted.
He didn’t end up having any reason to doubt.
After only scoring eight points in the first 13 minutes of the second half, Sidney came alive, forced overtime and flew by the Aviators to a 51-46 win in overtime at the Student Activity Center to stay undefeated in conference play at 4-0.
“We just came out and hustled,” Gordon, a Virginia Tech commit, said. “Everyone was breaking sweats, hustling, cramping. Everyone just gave their best effort towards it.”
It was the first loss of the season for Butler, which tied with Sidney for the GWOC North title last year. The Aviators drop to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in GWOC American League play. The teams will meet again on Feb. 12 in Sidney.
“It feels great,” Gordon said. “We knew we were going to have to come in here and bring intensity because they were going to bring it. They want to beat us, but we wanted it a little bit more.”
Butler opened the second half on a 22-8 run to take a 37-26 lead, but Sidney finished on a 25-9 run to come from behind and win.
“We just came out slow there,” senior guard Keith Lee said of Butler’s run to start the second half. “We knew we had to come out there and play, but our shots just weren’t falling. We had a few turnovers that we didn’t need to have and we weren’t clicking, but we came and started playing. We knew what we needed to do and we knew that we were the better team and could beat them.”
“… We’re an undersized team, but that doesn’t mean anything. We’ve all got heart, and any team that plays us, it’s going to be a competition for sure.”
It’s the fifth consecutive win for Sidney at the SAC. Butler had won the previous seven matchups between the squads in Vandalia.
The Yellow Jackets rallied from an early deficit to beat Butler 36-34 in Vandalia last February, and that victory earned them a share of their second straight conference title.
“Three years in a row, it’s come down to the buzzer,” third-year Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “It’s unbelievable. Teams have a hard time here. This place is known to be not so kind to the visiting team.”
Sidney (5-1) trailed 37-26 after a basket by Quentin Glover with about 2:30 left but rallied quickly.
It was the first big basket of the run that sparked the comeback according to Gordon.
Darren Taborn hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:02 left to cut Butler’s lead to 41-35. Sidney called a timeout soon after, and Gordon rallied his teammates at center court before play resumed and said, “Don’t worry, we’ve got this.”
“We knew we were going to keep busting it and keep going,” Gordon said. “We’ve all got heart. We knew we wanted this game more than them. We knew that in the huddle before (the tipoff) today when they came out with the lights off and stuff like that. It just gave us more energy, and it got us going.
“… I literally just told (Taborn) in the locker room that it started us off. It was just great that he could light the fire.”
Bryant Johnson missed a 1-and-1 opportunity with 1:00 minute left to keep Butler’s lead at 41-35. Gordon hit a 3 with about 45 seconds left to cut the lead to 41-38.
Butler had a five-second violation on the inbounds pass, and Sidney capped off the resulting possession when Ratez Roberts scored a shot off the glass with 36 seconds left and drew a foul in the process. Roberts hit the free throw to tie it 41-41.
Butler ran the clock down to 13 seconds and called a timeout. The Aviators’ last-second attempt hit off the backboard.
Lee opened overtime with a 3 from the left wing, then Gordon scored on a steal and thunderous two-handed dunk to put Sidney ahead 46-41.
“Dre had the ball and I saw him looking at me because the whole defense was shifted over towards him, because he’s Dre,” Lee said of his 3. “He just threw it over to me, and the (Butler defender) came out late, and I just pulled up. It just felt like the greatest shot in the world, literally.”
After Johnson hit a basket to pull Butler within three, Roberts made a basket after a steal and later made two free throws to put Sidney ahead 50-43 with 12.9 seconds left.
Gordon led Sidney with 18 points while Roberts scored 16. Gordon scored 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, while Roberts scored 11 of his 16 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“We kind of let (Gordon) go in the fourth quarter,” Willoughby said. “We needed him to create for himself just to get him going. Sometimes he’s a little too unselfish. Games like this, not that he has to be selfish, but he has to take it upon himself for us to score, especially when we were struggling to score some jumpers.
“Andre knew he had to pick it up, and he did. Ratez played a heck of a game too.”
Roberts had a game-high 13 rebounds and four blocks and Gordon had seven assists and five rebounds. Taborn finished with six points and five rebounds and Lee scored six points and had three rebounds.
Aside from Taborn and Lee, Willoughby also credited Josiah Hudgins’ defensive effort on Butler leading scorer Michael Kreill for aiding in the win.
“You need more than one player, and we try to recognize our other players as much as possible,” Willoughby said. “We wouldn’t be as good if we didn’t Ratez, if we didn’t have Josiah locking down on defense. I hope they feel that from the coaching staff, because they’re needed. We try to give them as much as we can.
“Keith Lee hit a big 3, Darren hit a big 3. I don’t know how much Kreill had, but Josiah did a great job defending him. He was left on an island by himself on the wing a couple of times, and the kid did not score on Josiah. People don’t recognize that sometimes, but Josiah allows us to be a good defensive team.”
Sidney led by three points at halftime but didn’t hold onto the lead for long, as Butler opened the second half on a 22-8 run.
Johnson opened the second half with a three-point play to tie it 18-18, and Butler took control from there. Glover made a basket to put the Aviators up 21-20, and the squad then outscored Sidney 6-2 the rest of the quarter to take a five-point lead.
Johnson opened the fourth quarter with a dunk and Cooper Justice hit a basket to put the Aviators up 31-22.
It didn’t last.
“It’s a tough spot to be in,” Willoughby said. “I’d rather come from behind than try to hold a lead like that. It’s hard because you stop your momentum. If the other team gets a couple of steals, then they’re going. We did that and we got going and feeling good about ourselves.”
Johnson and Michael Kreill each had 13 for Butler. Johnson had five rebounds and Kreill had four assists.
The Yellow Jackets shot 18 for 47 (38.3 percent) from the field while the Aviators shot 18 for 46 (39.1). Sidney won the rebounding battle 31-27.
The Yellow Jackets led 18-15 at halftime. It went back-and-forth in the first half as both squads settled into half court offenses and methodically worked the ball against each other’s defenses.
“We coach them to be ready to play that style, so when we get into a game like that, we’re not shocked or not trying to do things we’re not capable of doing or shouldn’t do,” Willoughby said. “A lot of times, when you get into a slow-down game and you’re a speed-tempo team, you overcompensate by getting out of position defensively or trying to take a shot you shouldn’t.”
Gordon hit a basket with 2:46 left in the first to put Sidney up 7-6, then Lee followed with a 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:34 left to push the lead to 10-6.
Butler pulled within 11-10 after a basket by Kreill with 7:14 left in the second, but Gordon hit a basket with 7:04 left and Trey Werntz followed with a basket off the glass 30 seconds later.
Braedon Norman hit a jumper to pull Butler within 15-13 midway through the quarter, but Roberts made 1-of-2 free throws and later made a bank-shot jumper to put Sidney ahead 18-13. Kreill hit a basket before the end of the quarter to shrink the halftime lead to three points.
Sidney will play next on Friday at home against Greenville, which dropped to 0-6 with a 23-point loss at Piqua on Tuesday.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.