SIDNEY — Sidney and Vandalia-Butler developed a rivalry in the last years of their membership in the Greater Western Ohio Conference after several tight games — and an inability by each team to win the matchup on its home floor.
The teams were in another tight one Friday — for the first three quarters. But the Yellow Jackets overpowered Butler in the fourth quarter and ran away to a 68-55 victory in an early-season Miami Valley League showdown.
The teams traded the lead eight times and were tied five times in a back-and-forth first half, but the Aviators took a 23-20 lead on a three-point play by Cooper Justice with 5:36 left in the second quarter and held onto the lead until the fourth, when the Yellow Jackets used a 25-9 scoring advantage to run away.
“That showed some toughness by us,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “We put our heads down and just grinded it out. We had some players really play well for us tonight. It was nice to see everyone contributing. I thought our bench played super tonight.”
Sidney (4-0, 4-0 MVL Valley) is the only remaining undefeated MVL team after West Carrollton’s 13-point loss to Tippecanoe on Friday. The win finishes a big week for the Yellow Jackets, which beat previously undefeated Stebbins by four points on Tuesday.
“I’m more pleased with how tough we played and the way we stuck together,” Willoughby said. “I want to win, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a lot more important the kids learn how to win and learn how to play together. We did that (this week).”
Several players had big performances in the fourth quarter on Friday, but the biggest may have been senior forward Lathan Jones, who scored nine of his 13 points in the quarter.
With starting forward Matthew Beverly on the bench late in foul trouble, Jones used pump fakes and maneuvered his way around guard Quincy Rackley to get open shots in the fourth. He shot 6 for 6 from the field in the game and had three rebounds.
“It was nice to see us throw the ball in the post and get something out of it,” Willoughby said. “… It was a really nice game by Lathan.”
Senior guard Darren Taborn, who is the team’s only returning starter from last year’s 20-5 campaign, led Sidney with a career-high 24 points. Trey Werntz added eight points and had seven rebounds and Avante Martin had seven rebounds and two steals.
“Darren had great leadership, and I was impressed by Trey’s defense and rebounding,” Willoughby said. “… Trey got some critical rebounds for us. I was more impressed by that than anything he did on the offensive end.”
Butler led 36-33 at halftime and pushed its lead to 43-37 after a 3-pointer and a jumper by Rackley midway through the quarter. Dominick Durr scored after a steal right before the quarter buzzer to cut the deficit to 46-43, and the Yellow Jackets quickly took the lead in the fourth.
Durr hit a pair of free throws with 7:42 left, then made another pair with 6:47 left to give Sidney a 47-46 lead.
Nick Smith made 1-of-2 foul shots to tie it with 6:24 left. After the teams traded 3-pointers, Jones split a pair of free throws to put Sidney ahead 51-50 with 5:47 left, then made a basket in the paint 40 seconds later.
After Butler pulled within 53-52 on a basket by Justice with 4:30 left, Taborn scored on a drive 15 seconds later and Jones scored on a basket in the paint with 3:33 left in push the lead to 57-52. Werntz then made 3-of-4 free-throw attempts in a 40-second span to push the lead to 60-52, and the squad pulled away from there.
“We gave them a little bit more of a challenge (defensively) in the second half,” Willoughby said. “At halftime, we talked about being more personal on the defensive end, taking your guy one-on-one first and then our team defense second. I thought a couple of our guys buckled down and stopped their guy.”
Sidney made 20-of-28 free-throw attempts on the night, including 12-of-16 in the fourth quarter.
“We did well there,” Willoughby said. “Getting Trey to the line was big. He’s probably a 90 percent free-throw shooter. Devin Taborn is a high-percentage shooter and he hit a couple, and Darren Taborn hit some big ones too.”
Justice led the Aviators with 14 points while Tyler Montague scored 13, Rackley scored 11 and Smith scored 10 and brought down 10 rebounds.
The Yellow Jackets shot 21 for 43 (48.8 percent) from the field in the game and outrebounded Butler 29-22. The Aviators shot 18 for 49 (36.7 percent) from the field and 11 for 14 (78.6 percent) from the free-throw line.
It’s Sidney’s first victory over the Aviators on its home court since Dec. 11, 2015 — several months before Willoughby took over the program. Conversely, Butler hasn’t beaten Sidney at its Student Activity Center since Jan. 3, 2014.
“They’re a tough team and program,” Willoughby said. “We had a three-game sweep with freshman, JV and varsity tonight, and that was nice.”
The two teams shared or outright won GWOC American North titles from 2016-17 until last season. They’re both among the early leaders in the newly reformed MVL.
Sidney has a one-game lead in the MVL Valley Division over Stebbins and West Carrollton, which are each 3-1. Butler (2-3, 2-2 MVL Miami) is in third place in the Miami Division behind Tipp and Troy, who are tied for first at 3-1.
The Yellow Jackets’ early-season MVL slate continues next week. They travel to Xenia (0-5, 0-4) on Tuesday and host Troy (4-1) on Friday.
Butler, which is under the guidance of first-year coach Adam Betten, will travel to Troy on Tuesday and host West Carrollton on Friday.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.