TIPP CITY — Sidney was already prepared to be on the short side of a height differential on Tuesday in a Miami Valley League crossover game against Tippecanoe. The addition of another forward increased the gap and made things even harder for the Yellow Jackets.
The hot-shooting Red Devils took an early lead and largely locked Sidney out of the post. Though Yellow Jackets cut a 21-point gap down to nine the second half, they couldn’t come closer in a 71-57 loss at Pat Wampler Gymnasium.
“They’re just good,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said of Tippecanoe. “They came out and played better than we did tonight.”
The Red Devils (7-4, 6-1) were boosted by the return of 6-foot-4 senior forward Nolan Mader, who scored 12 points. Mader led the team with an average of 18.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game last season but had yet to play this season due to his nagging leg issues.
Mader’s return wasn’t completely unexpected for Sidney. He has been slowly recovering and has previously dressed and warmed up with the squad in previous games.
It exacerbated a height gap for Sidney, though. Tippecanoe started three players 6-3 or taller; Sidney 6-3 senior wing Trey Werntz is the team’s tallest player, and the squad’s post players are all 6-2.
The Yellow Jackets had been able to overcome height differentials so far but could not Tuesday. They were largely unable to find lanes to drive into the post, which has been one of their most productive methods of scoring. They also got few defensive rebounds and fewer offensive rebounds.
“We didn’t get some of the shots, the layups or power moves, that we normally get,” Willoughby said. “They’re bigger than we are, taller than we are. They played better.”
Tippecanoe made seven 3-pointers in the first half to help create a 17-point halftime lead and scored the first four points of the third quarter to take its largest lead of the game at 48-27. Sidney scored the next eight points, though, and continued to close the gap into the fourth quarter.
Dominick Durr made a 3 with 2:31 left in the fourth to pull Sidney within 64-55, but Mader made a floater 30 seconds later, then blocked a shot by Sidney’s Darren Taborn in the lane 10 seconds later to completely kill the Yellow Jackets’ momentum.
“I think we took a lot bad 3s in the first half to try to match their 3s, and that’s just not who we are,” Willoughby said. “They’re a good-shooting team. We didn’t stop them shooting 3s, and then we’d come down, dribbles five times and fire up a 3 without anyone else touching the ball. That just played right into their hands. We didn’t do a good job with that in the first half.”
Durr led Sidney with 18 points while Lathan Jones scored 10. Taborn, who entered the game averaging a team-high 15.7 points, was held scoreless in the first half but scored eight points in the second half. Devin Taborn also scored eight.
Tippecanoe 6-4 guard Zach Frederick led the squad with 19 points, including three 3s in the first quarter. He also had a team-high 15 rebounds while Mader had 13. Gavin Garlitz scored 15 points and Ben Knostman, a 6-3 guard, scored 12 points and had seven rebounds.
As a result of Tuesday’s matchup, Sidney and Stebbins (9-1, 7-1) are tied for first in both overall MVL standings and MVL Valley Division standings. Stebbins, which lost to Sidney by four points on Dec. 10, edged Troy 63-62 on Tuesday.
Tippecanoe, which lost by seven points at Stebbins on Dec. 3, is a half-game behind the Yellow Jackets and Indians in overall MVL standings and is in first place in the MVL Miami Division with a two-game lead over the Trojans.
Sidney will travel to Greenville (1-8, 2-8) for an MVL crossover game on Friday.
“I just told them (in the locker room) that the nice thing about high school basketball is you can always come back the next night and fight a little harder the next time,” Willoughby said.
Durr hit a long jumper and Werntz hit a 3 to give Sidney an early 5-0 lead but Tippecanoe took control from there. Frederick hit his final 3 of the first quarter from beyond NBA range at the buzzer to give the squad a 24-15 lead.
The teams traded baskets until the Red Devils scored seven consecutive points — the last of which came on a jumper by Frederick — to take a 44-27 halftime lead.
After the Red Devils pushed the gap to 21 points early in the second, Sidney cut the gap to 48-35 by the 5:00 mark of the third.
Tippecanoe led 55-40 at the end of the third, but Sidney started the fourth with a big run. Durr hit a pair of free throws and made a 3 to cut the gap to 57-45, then Avante Martin made a basket and split a pair of free throws to cut Tipp’s lead to 59-50 with 3:02 left. The squad came no closer the rest of the game.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.