VANDALIA — The anger stayed with Sidney coach John Willoughby for hours after the final buzzer sounded on March 2, 2018. He’s hoping joy will stick around postgame this time around on the same date.
No. 4 seed Sidney (20-4) will face No. 2 Springfield (15-9) in a Division I sectional final at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Vandalia-Butler’s Student Activity Center.
It’ll be the second consecutive season the teams have faced off in a sectional final — and exactly one year since the Wildcats won a 63-62 thriller that went down to the final seconds.
It’ll be Sidney’s third sectional final appearance in four years. The program hasn’t won a sectional title since 1999.
“Each year since I’ve been here, we’ve been getting a little bit better and a little bit better with the tournament run,” third-year Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “Hopefully, this is the year we can do it (win a sectional).”
Springfield advanced to Saturday’s matchup with a dominating win over Troy on Thursday in a sectional final while Sidney rallied behind 22 straight points by senior guard Andre Gordon to beat Springboro 68-62. Gordon finished with 45 points, which is the second-highest scoring total of his career.
Willoughby has talked up Gordon since taking over as the program’s coach three years ago, but there was little he could add to describe the Virginia Tech commit’s performance on Thursday.
“Andre’s that good, man,” Willoughby said. “And that’s a really good team (he did it too).”
“… I’m happy for all our guys to get the win; I love it. But besides that, I’m happy with how everyone just fought their tails off and battled. Our defense was outstanding, especially late there in the fourth quarter. I can’t say enough about how we went after the ball.”
Springfield rallied to win last year. Sidney was called for a foul with about 30 seconds left, which sent Springfield to the free-throw line. The Wildcats made two free throws to go ahead.
The Yellow Jackets worked the ball to Gordon for a last-second shot, but a fade-away jumper at the buzzer was no good.
Willoughby was miffed at the final foul call against Sidney and the lack of a foul call against Springfield on Gordon’s last shot.
What he remembers most about the Wildcats, though, is their tough man-to-man defense. Willoughby saw it on display again against Troy, as Springfield forced 24 turnovers.
“Their defense is tough to play against, man,” Willoughby said. “They’re going to play a lot harder against us, too. They’ll be all over the floor. We’ve just got to make sure we contain the drives and not let them get easy baskets inside against us.”
Roberts, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, had a terrific game against Springfield last year with 19 points, nine rebounds and five blocks, all while going up against Springfield post players Leonard Taylor and Sam Towns.
He’ll have a new challenge this year, as Taylor’s now playing football at Cincinnati and Towns transferred to Pickerington Central to finish his high school career. Springfield 6-5 junior forward Raymans Cole scored 10 points on Thursday, while RaHeim Moss, a 6-4 guard, scored 14.
Moss leads Springfield with an average of 18 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Guards David Sanford and Jalan Minney average over nine points and 3.5 rebounds per game, and senior guard David Sanford averages 13.7 points per game.
Roberts nor 6-3 junior forward Lathan Jones scored on Thursday against Springboro, but Willoughby said their defensive contributions were huge. Roberts had five rebounds and one block and Jones had two steals and one block.
The duo was outsized against Springboro, which started 6-8 and 6-7 forwards.
“Lathan played another great game for us and Ratez played another great game on the defensive end,” Willoughby said. “We tried to have him be a little more aggressive on the offensive end in the second half, but he didn’t stop playing. He doesn’t worry about (scoring); he’s worried about winning. He does what it takes to win. That’s why we love Ratez so much.”
Saturday will also be a reunion for Gordon with Moss, who was a C2K Elite AAU teammate for the last two years. Moss has Division I collegiate offers in basketball and football.
“I talked to him after the game, and he’s excited,” Gordon said. “… We’re pretty close, spending all summer with each other and clowning and stuff like that. He’s probably one of my best friends.”
A win would send Sidney to UD Arena for the first time in 20 years, and it’s a goal Gordon has talked about since shortly after losing to Springfield last year.
Saturday’s winner will face the winner of Cincinnati Sycamore vs. Cincinnati Elder in a district final on March 9 in Dayton. Elder, the Cincinnati’s sectional’s No. 10 seed, upset No. 4 Oak Hills on Thursday 43-41 in overtime.
All-Southwest district selections
Gordon was named first team all-Southwest district by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association, while Roberts and senior guard Josiah Hudgins were honorable mention.
Gordon averaged 22.6 points, 5.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds in regular season. Roberts averaged 10 points, 9.3 rebounds and a GWOC-best 4.4 blocks per game while Hudgins averaged 7.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
Teams are selected based on regular-season performance only.
Gordon lost out on being the Div. I player of the year to Xenia star and Cincinnati commit Samari Curtis.
Curtis averaged a GWOC-best 33.8 points per game and averaged 5.2 assists and 7.1 rebounds. He scored 47 points in a game at Sidney on Jan. 8. Curtis and Gordon were AAU teammates on C2K Elite in recent years.
The OPSWA took over for the Associated Press in 2017 in organizing all-district and all-state teams. All-state boys and girls teams will be released later this month.
Complete all-southwest district boys and girls basketball teams will be published in a print edition of the Sidney Daily News next week. Complete teams were published on sidneydailynews.com on Friday.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.