TROY — There was a good amount of crying done by Sidney’s players in the locker room following a first-round tournament loss to Vandalia-Butler on Saturday.
First-year coach Jamal Foster was sad to see it — but said it was one final positive sign following a season full of them.
“They’re in there crying right now because of the things they did (this season),” Foster said. “They didn’t want it to end. I couldn’t be more proud of the effort from everyone, from the seniors down to the freshmen.”
Sidney’s turnaround season came to an end in a Division I sectional semifinal at Troy High School’s Trojan Activities Center. Despite rallying from a 14-point deficit to tie the score four times in the fourth quarter, Butler held on to earn a 51-48 victory.
The Yellow Jackets were able to gain respectability and pride again this season after garnering 15 wins and a Miami Valley League Valley Division title. Sidney was winless last year and 2-21 in 2018.
“We were just talking (in the locker room) about the things we did,” Foster said. “It was all them buying into the things that I’m saying and our coaching staff is saying.”
The Yellow Jackets have to wait another year to try to win a tournament game. They’ve lost in first-round games the last four seasons.
“We get back to work in the spring and we will remember this feeling,” Foster said. “We will remember this feeling and how it felt. It won’t happen (again) because of the work of the girls.
“… The future is bright, and we’re going to put the work in to try to expand on that potential.”
Almost all the team’s players will return next season, including freshmen standout guards Allie Stockton and Lexee Brewer, who were named all-MVL on Friday.
Stockton averaged 16 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game and was named first team all-MVL. Brewer averaged 7.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.5 steals and 4.3 assists and was named second team. Junior forward Samantha Reynolds, who averaged 8.5 points and 7.7 rebounds, was named honorable mention.
Butler built a 33-19 lead in the third quarter but the Yellow Jackets rattled off 11 straight points to get back in the game. Sophomore guard Peyton Wiley came up big during the run by hitting two 3-pointers and a pair of foul shots.
The Aviators kept their lead around three points until junior guard Kelsey Kizer hit a 3-pointer from the left corner with 5:12 left in the fourth to tie it 39-39.
The Yellow Jackets tied it at 41-41, 43-43 and 45-45, but Butler responded each time to re-take control.
“We just got back to playing how we can play,” Foster said. “We got the tempo back how we like and made some adjustments at halftime. We had to really refocus and let them know that we needed everyone, the whole group, to buy in for us to have a chance in the fourth quarter.
“… We made some shots, we had some good defensive efforts and got some pressure on the ball. We got back to our identity.”
Sidney’s last tie came when Reynolds hit a basket with 54 seconds left, but Butler’s Sami Bardonaro hit two foul shots with 39 seconds left and hit 1-of-2 free throws with 28 seconds left to give the squad a 48-45 lead.
The Aviators hit 5-of-6 foul shot attempts in the final minute.
“You’re going to get some things you wish you could get back, and we got some fouls we kind of thought were unfair,” Foster said. “The fact is though we got down fast to a solid team, and we can’t do that. We’ve got to play four quarters of good basketball. Once that happens, these types of things won’t happen. It’ll take more steps to get there.”
Butler dominated early and took a 17-6 lead by the end of the first quarter. The teams traded baskets to a 27-16 score at halftime.
“I’m just more proud of the fight,” Foster said. “We showed some toughness after that; we showed some fight. We just needed a little bit more time and a few more things to go our way, and we’re okay.”
Stockton led Sidney with 16 points. Wiley finished with 10, Reynolds scored eight and Kizer finished with six.
The No. 9 seed Yellow Jackets, which split with Butler in MVL games in regular season, finish 15-8 overall. The No. 8 seed Aviators (16-7) advance to face No. 4 Springboro on Thursday.
Sidney will lose four seniors to graduation, including Hallie Truesdale, who is a three-year varsity player. The squad will also lose Kaitlin VanZant, Callie Fleming and Autumn Henley.
“The group of seniors was different,” Foster said. “They were real special. From practicing hard to holding down communication to fusing things in the locker room, they were different. I really appreciate them and I hope they know that I appreciate them. I’m going to miss them.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.