TROY — The rebuild begins now. That’s the message second-year Sidney High School coach Lauren Stefancin delivered to her Yellow Jackets on Wednesday night.
As soon as the final seconds ticked off the clock to end Sidney’s season in the Division I sectional tournament, the next season began. The off season. It’s where Sidney will work to close the gap from Wednesday’s 78-8 loss to the Centerville Elks at Troy High School.
“Like I was telling them in the locker room, it all starts in the summer now. From now until next season is off season,” Stefancin said. “They have basically eight months to get some work in to get some of those skills down that Centerville does have. Every single player on that team is very fundamentally sound.”
Sidney knew the challenge against Centerville. The Yellow Jackets, besieged with injuries this season, entered winless. The Elks entered ranked No. 6 in the final Associated Press state poll, including one first-place vote.
This one was never in doubt. Centerville (22-2) scored the first 21 points before Sidney (0-23) scored on senior Emma Wiford’s free throw with 2:23 left in the first quarter. Sophomore Kelsey Kizer scored the Yellow Jackets’ first basket with 18 seconds left in the first quarter to make it 21-3.
The second half was played under a running clock with Centerville holding a 35-point lead. Still, the Yellow Jackets kept playing hard and trying to execute Stefancin’s game plan — attack the Elks inside.
Kizer led Sidney with five points. Sophomore Cassidy Truesdale scored two and Wiford one.
“This is a really great team. Probably state bound,” Stefancin said of the Elks. “I told them they were going to see things they haven’t all season because it’s the best team we’re going to play, next to Trotwood. I think they just enjoyed being out there with that caliber. Seeing we could potentially be that team if we put in the work and the extra things. I think it was a really good eye opener for them.”
Sidney went 2-21 last season and is just two seasons removed from going 14-9 in 2016-17. Injuries derailed this season but the Yellow Jackets’ younger players gained valuable experience to build on for next year.
When Sidney took the court Wednesday night, three starters were among the five currently injured. Stefancin had nine players available against the Elks, including four junior varsity players.
Senior Alina Kindle, junior Hallie Truesdale, sophomores Samantha Reynolds and Keliyah Marcus and freshman Peyton Wiley all missed time. The biggest blow came when Kindle, the team’s main ball handler, suffered a season-ending knee injury three games into the season.
“Alina going out the third game of the season hurt us. But we had a lot of players step up,” Stefancin said. “Samantha Reynolds, she stepped up. She was our leading scorer every game she played. As a sophomore going into her junior year that’s going to help her. Her confidence went up a ton. Keliyah Marcus, our fastest player on the team, has a lot of good skills. We just have to put the work in the off season.”
Stefancin said the majority of her players are involved in other sports besides basketball. Kizer is the Yellow Jackets’ lone AAU player. Stefancin encourages her players to participate in other sports, but stressed the next six months — from March through August — is key to helping the basketball program regroup.
“I told them they will see the progress they’ve made in six months if they work hard,” Stefancin said.
Sidney graduates seniors Allie Herrick and Wiford, so numbers return next season. Mix in an eighth-grade team that finished 15-2 (which Stefancin said is “100 percent basketball”) and the future looks good.
“Obviously no coach wants to go 0-fer,” Stefancin said. “We’re in the rebuilding stage. I would say in the next couple of years we’re going to see really good progress.
“It comes down to fundamentals. Free throws, layups. I go through the film and see how many layups we’ve missed. When I get to 10 … I can’t say we haven’t fought back.”
The Yellow Jackets never gave in against the Elks. They continued to challenge on defense. They drove inside trying to draw contact. And they shared the ball looking for the best shot.
“I was super pleased with them still trying (against Centerville),” she said. “I told them we’re going to have to drive and get them in foul trouble. Everyone tried. Those are the kinds of things I ask of them and they do.”
Sidney was outscored 56-27 on average this season. Their closest chance at a win came in eight-point and four-point losses to West Carrollton and a three-point loss to Xenia. Stefancin points to a three-minute rally against West Carrollton to demonstrate the progress the Yellow Jackets are making. They scored 10 points in three minutes to nearly pull out the win.
“The first injury with Alina definitely took a toll on the whole team dynamic,” Stefancin said. “As a senior, as one of the leading scorers and a leader on the team, we had to reorganize our starting five. We had to figure out who could play with who. That took multiple games. Once we figured out our starting five then we started working on different things. Then we had another injury and another injury.
“Those little glimpses (including against West Carrollton), I would hope it would bring them confidence. It definitely brought me confidence in them.”