TIPP CITY — Sidney has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround this season and put its improvement on display again on Wednesday at Tippecanoe, which has been among the Dayton-area’s best programs for decades.
The Yellow Jackets sped up Tippecanoe, forced turnovers and worked around multiple defensive schemes to find shots.
But while Sidney was able to again show it can play the Miami Valley League champion Red Devils close, it will have to wait until next season for a chance to show it can beat them.
Sidney overcame a slow start and pulled as close as eight points late in the fourth quarter but Tippecanoe held off each comeback try to earn a 54-44 victory.
The Red Devils (17-4, 17-0) have lost just one conference game since joining up with current MVL teams in the Greater Western Ohio Conference in 2016 and were recently voted the top seed in the 12-team Tecumseh Division II sectional.
“That type of team, you’ve got to play four quarters to be able to beat them,” Sidney coach Jamal Foster said. “We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet.”
It was the second battle between the MVL’s two divisional leaders. Sidney (15-6, 12-5), which was winless last season, wrapped up the MVL Valley Division title in mid-January while Tippecanoe (17-4, 17-0) wrapped up the overall MVL title and Miami Division championship in late January.
The Red Devils won the team’s first matchup 50-39 on Jan. 4 in Sidney. Though the margin of victory was almost identical, Sidney made things tougher on Wednesday and prevented Tipp from securing the win until the final minute.
Sidney freshman guard Allie Stockton, who scored a game-high 20 points, hit a pair of free throws with 1:38 left in the fourth to bring Sidney within 49-41.
The Red Devils had quickly racked up fouls in the second half and were in the double bonus, but they committed one foul in the final 98 seconds while still putting strong defensive pressure on the Yellow Jackets.
Sidney was forced to foul in the final minute, and the Red Devils hit 5-of-6 foul shots late to pull out to a 54-42 lead. Peyton Wiley hit a shot at the buzzer for Sidney to narrow the final gap to 10.
Foster credited Sidney for battling back after a slow start. The Red Devils led by 10 points at the end of the first quarter and pushed their lead 15 by the end of the third.
“The second half is more a reflection of who we are,” Foster said. “Tipp came out early and showed the poise of an experienced team and I think it shook us up a little bit. We made some adjustments in the second half. I think they showed the effort and intensity on the defensive end to create a tempo we’re comfortable with playing.”
Tippecanoe led 16-6 at the end of the first quarter. Stockton, who also had five rebounds, hit two 3-pointers to score the Yellow Jackets’ only points of the quarter and scored the team’s first three points on the second.
“For a minute there, we were slacking on offense and she was able to make shots,” Foster said. “I think a game like this is a benchmark or a goal for what we want to see her do the next three years.”
Stockton has been one of the leaders of Sidney’s improvement this year. She averages 15.8 points and seven rebounds per game.
“Allie is turning a corner in multiple ways,” Foster said. “It’s no secret what she’s done scoring-wise throughout the season. We’ve been coaching her a little bit differently to play two ways off the ball, and I think she’s working on being a great two-way player in this league.
Tippecanoe boosted its lead to 24-12 by halftime. Samantha Reynolds hit a put-back to bring Sidney within 26-19 early in the third quarter but the Red Devils pulled away later and finished with a 10-3 run to increase the lead to 39-24 heading into the fourth.
Sidney implemented a full-court press for much of the fourth quarter that flustered Tippecanoe. The Yellow Jackets used Tipp’s turnovers to fuel its offense and worked the ball around better. Reynolds scored six points in the quarter and Peyton Wiley scored five.
“We set some more ball screens there too and understood the spacing,” Foster said. “We understood the confidence of it more too. We want to instill confidence on the floor for every player that’s out there, whether you’re the shooter, distributor, the rebounder or anything.”
Reynolds finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds and Wiley finished with seven points.
Sidney will wrap up regular-season play on Saturday when it travels to Greenville. The Yellow Jackets, which were voted the No. 9 seed in the Dayton Div. I sectional, will open tournament play on Feb. 15 when they face No. 8 Vandalia-Butler at Troy High School. The two squads split their MVL matchups in regular season.
“I’m happy with where we’re at,” Foster said. “We battle with teams pretty much every night. We come out playing hard. From a standpoint of where we’re at, we definitely want to finish Saturday strong, go down to Greenville and win in a tough place to play, and have a good week going into Vandalia and see what happens.”
Ashleigh Mader led Tippecanoe with 15 points while Rachel Wildermuth and Kendall Clodfelter each scored 12.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.