SIDNEY — Sidney’s girls basketball team has seen almost nothing but zone defenses in January as it has started its second round of Miami Valley League play.
Those defenses have slowed the Yellow Jackets’ transition offense down a bit — but Sidney’s full-court pressure defense has slowed down opponents more.
The Yellow Jackets contained Vandalia-Butler in a MVL crossover game on Wednesday on ran away late to a 49-41 victory. The Aviators are the most recent squad that’s had more problems scoring against Sidney than in the teams’ first matchup.
Butler (12-4, 11-2 MVL Miami Division) secured a 53-51 win against the Yellow Jackets late in a Dec. 14 contest. On Wednesday, they shot nearly 20 percent less from the field and committed five more turnovers than the December game.
Of the four MVL squads Sidney (13-4, 10-3 MVL Valley) has faced for a second time, all but Piqua have scored significantly less points — and the Indians scored just two more points than the first matchup.
“We knew they could make some shots and they made some,” Sidney coach Jamal Foster said of Butler. “But one thing I was impressed about is that we always went to the next play. When we gave up a shot or didn’t do what we were supposed to do, we went to the next play. The next play we came through.”
Though five league games remain, Sidney’s win combined with Fairborn’s loss to Troy on Wednesday secured the squad the MVL Valley Division title. The Yellow Jackets, which were winless last year, have a six-game lead over the Skyhawks (3-14, 3-10), who are a half-game ahead of Stebbins for second place in the Valley Division.
Sidney, which last won a conference title in 2016, trails Tippecanoe (13-4, 13-0) by three games and Butler by one in overall MVL standings.
Freshman guard Lexee Brewer scored 12 of her game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter to help the Yellow Jackets secure the win. She had five steals (most of which led to her five field goals) and had five rebounds.
Freshman guard Allie Stockton added 11 points, six rebounds, five steals and a team-high four assists.
“When you’re 14, 15 games into the season, I look at it like while they’re grade is still freshmen, they’re two varsity players now,” Foster said. “… I expect to see some of the things that they’re doing.
“I think they’ve improved down the stretch where the ball might have been a little hotter at the beginning of the year. They’ve settled down and realized, ‘I’m okay, I’ve been here before.’ They both played well down the stretch (tonight) and made some plays and free throws to help us win.
Kelsey Kizer scored 11 points, including all three of Sidney’s 3-pointers, and had three steals. Kizer hit two 3s in the first half against Butler’s 2-3 zone.
“Our girls are chomping at the bit to see man, but the fact is with the style that we play, we know we’re going to see zone,” Foster said. “… If we keep working hard in practice at it and keep making the extra pass, we should continue to improve at it.
“… Kelsey got us going tonight and when she’s confident, she stretches the floor out, and then they can’t focus on some of the other players they were focusing on. It was big for her to see some shots go in, and it helped us establish things on both ends.”
The Yellow Jackets also got a scoring boost from senior forward Hallie Truesdale, who scored a season-high eight points and matched a season high with nine rebounds despite being three inches shorter than Butler center Evan Neely, who scored a team-high 18 points.
Truesdale is the team’s only multiple-year varsity player and has been a key leading force for the young squad according to Foster.
“Our captain’s an unsung hero,” Foster said. “She comes in there and does the dirty work and does the things most players might complain about doing. She practices hard all the time and has a great attitude. When you see games like this where she comes up big and takes on assignments where she’s giving up the physical advantage, to me, she’s the player of the game.”
The Yellow Jackets led the whole way on Wednesday.
Kizer hit a 3, Stockton made two free throws and Brewer made a layup after a steal to give Sidney a 7-4 lead at the end of the first quarter. Brewer scored after another steal late in the second to help the squad boost the lead to 16-11 at halftime.
Sidney began to pull away in the third. Kizer hit a 3 with 3:47 left to put the team ahead 23-17 and Truesdale made two jumpers in the last two minutes of the quarter to help push the lead to 29-20.
The Yellow Jackets took a 32-20 lead early in the fourth after a pair of free throws by Stockton but Butler went on an 18-9 run to pull within 41-38 with 1:08 left. Brewer hit 4-of-6 free-throw attempts over the next 24 seconds to help boost the lead to 45-38, and Stockton and Brewer each added two more free throws in the final 40 seconds.
The Aviators made a 3 at the buzzer to shrink the final gap down to eight points.
Sidney will travel to Xenia on Saturday.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.