SIDNEY — Sidney’s girls basketball squad was the surprise of the season in the Miami Valley League’s first year. The Yellow Jackets have more to prove this season — though they’ll have to wait for a second chance to do so against Tippecanoe.
Sidney was winless in its last season as a member of the Greater Western Ohio Conference but finished 15-8 a year ago in coach Jamal Foster’s first year at the helm, thanks in part to a pair of freshman guards who immediately lifted the program.
Foster has set the team’s motto as “#More2prove” in his second season — a hashtag that follows most of the tweets on the team’s Twitter profile and is also on facemasks coaches are wearing this season as COVID-19 continues to affect prep sports.
Sidney ran away with the Miami Valley League Valley Division title last year. The next step toward proving more would be to capture the overall MVL title, which was claimed by Tippecanoe last year.
The Red Devils have dominated since joining up with current MVL teams in the GWOC in 2016. They lost one league game in three seasons and captured GWOC North titles each year before the MVL formed last season.
A slow start hurt the Yellow Jackets in a season opener against Tippecanoe on Wednesday. The Red Devils built a nine-point lead by the end of the first quarter, and the teams played even from there to a 49-40 score.
Sidney has its top five scorers back from last season, including sophomore guards Allie Stockton and Lexee Brewer, who return after making a big impact as freshmen.
Stockton, who is 5-foot-10, led the team with 16.5 points per game and was named first team all-MVL. She also averaged 6.9 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 2.1 assists per game. Brewer, who is 5-6, averaged 7.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.3 steals and 4.3 assists per game. She was a second team all-MVL selection.
“They’ve worked hard; I’ve seen them trying to take their games to the next level,” Foster said. “I’ve seen them show up on days we didn’t have anything. I’ve seen them reach out to try and learn how to get better.
“I think they both want it. They both want it from an individual aspect and more importantly from a team aspect. They’re willing to take that next step up; it’s just a matter of time.”
Also back is starting forward Samantha Reynolds, who averaged 8.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last year. Junior guard Peyton Wiley and senior guard Kelsey Kizer return after averaging 5.9 points per game last year.
“Having everyone back, that’s chemistry you need,” Foster said. “They’re getting it. They’re still trying to figure out each other’s stuff on the fly, but I see the communication and continuity out there. It’s a good thing to have; you can rely on four of the five when you have some incoming freshmen playing as well.”
The team has a pair of freshman guards who look to make an impact this season: Kiara Hudgins and Kimora Johnson. Hudgins started on Wednesday and scored nine points, while Johnson played off the bench after playing most of the junior varsity game. Foster also identified sophomore guard Lainie Fair as a key newcomer.
“Kiara is starting as a freshman for a reason,” Foster said. “The motor she has, the tempo that she plays, she has a chance to really be special. We don’t really have one like her. She defends, she makes plays, she can knock shots down. It’s all going to be about her getting comfortable with the speed at this level.
“She’s really going to help us sooner than later. It seems like a thing to start freshmen year after year, but they’re earning it, and she’s definitely earning it.
“… Kimora is going to be a pivotal piece of our future. She knocked a shot down today, and she can defend really well. We’re having a wave of really, really athletic guards, and that caters to the way that we play.”
The Yellow Jackets were shorthanded on Wednesday as several players were unable to compete.
After the Red Devils built a 13-4 lead by the end of the first quarter, Sidney scored the first six points of the second to pull within 14-10. But after the Red Devils called a timeout, they scored the next 10 points and took a 26-14 lead to the locker room at halftime.
“They’re fundamentally sound with a high IQ,” Foster said of Tipp. “They are who we thought they are. We just need to start games a little better and not get behind so much. If we give ourselves a fighting chance, I think we have what it takes to be there at the end of the day. We just have to do the little things right, but it will come.”
Sidney opened the third quarter on a 6-0 run to pull within six points, but after a timeout, Tipp again responded with a big run and built a 40-25 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Sidney cut the gap down to seven late in the fourth but couldn’t pull closer.
Brewer led Sidney with 12 points, nine steals and six assists and six rebounds. Hudgins also had five rebounds. Stockton, who was the focus of Tipp’s defense, was scoreless in the first half but scored seven points in the second.
Sidney will face only MVL opponents this season — just as the school’s fall sports squads did earlier this year. The squad’s lone scrimmages were against MVL foes Xenia and Troy.
“It’s been a tough year for everybody; it’s a global pandemic,” Foster said. “For us, it’s just trying to compete every day. If we can’t go out and scrimmage who we need to scrimmage or play out-of-conference, it just puts emphasis on what we do at practice, how we compete, how we teach, the reps that we give.”
In addition, Sidney High School is limiting attendance at all athletic events to only parents of participants following Gov. Mike DeWine’s request earlier this week that crowds at athletic events for the rest of the year be limited to parents.
The Yellow Jackets were scheduled to host Greenville on Saturday, but that game has been postponed to Dec. 7. They’re scheduled to return to the court on Wednesday at Fairborn and will travel to Piqua on Friday.
Katie Hemmelgarn led Tippecanoe with 21 points and 12 rebounds while Ashleigh Mader scored 11 points and had six rebounds and five assists.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.