SIDNEY — Tippecanoe had worked its way to the No. 7 spot in Division II in the year’s first Associated Press state poll with dominating wins over Miami Valley League teams.
The undefeated Red Devils had won their first six games by an average score of 80-52, including dominating wins over Troy and West Carrollton, which also entered the season looking to be MVL contenders.
Sidney gave the Red Devils their first scare of the season on Saturday afternoon only about 17 hours after it earned a victory at Fairborn. Tippecanoe’s 3-point shooting and stout rebounding once again proved to be too much for an opponent to overcome, though.
The Red Devils rallied in the final two minutes to earn a 71-68 victory and improve to 8-0 overall.
Tipp’s previous closest game was its most recent; it beat Vandalia-Butler by 15 points on Wednesday after building an 11-point lead by halftime.
It looked like Saturday’s matchup was going to be another blowout win for Tippecanoe. The Red Devils grabbed an early 9-2 lead before Sidney battled back to tie it 14-14.
The Yellow Jackets (4-3) led throughout the second half before Tippecanoe went on an 11-5 run over the last two minutes.
“We knew we were going to have to play our best game today and pretty much played our best,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “… I thought we played pretty well and shared the ball well. We knew they were going to get out to an early start. That’s what they do, and we were able to battle back, which was good to see.”
The teams were tied 32-32 at halftime but Sidney scored the first 10 points of the third quarter to take control. Cam Vordemark capped off the run with a 3-pointer with 6:04 left to put the squad ahead 42-32.
The Red Devils finished the third on a 10-4 run to pull within 50-47 heading into the fourth. They continued to inch closer and pulled within 61-60 after Griffin Caldwell split a pair of free throws with three minutes left.
Jaden Swiger made a basket off the glass with 2:17 left to give Sidney a 63-60 lead, but Gavin Garlitz made a 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:58 left to tie the teams for the first time since early in the third.
After Sidney senior starting guard Cedric Johnson fouled out, the teams traded points to a 66-66 score. Tippecanoe’s Stanley Clyne split a pair of free throws with 47.4 seconds left to give the squad a lead, then Zach Frederick was fouled after grabbing the rebound off the missed shot and made two foul shots to push the advantage to 69-66.
Vordemark made a basket with 38 seconds left to bring the Yellow Jackets within 69-68. Tippecanoe’s Ben Knostman missed a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left, but Caldwell was fouled by Vordemark going for the rebound with 19.3 seconds left.
The foul was Vordemark’s fifth, and he headed to the bench as Caldwell made both free throws. The Yellow Jackets struggled to find a shot in the last 20 seconds; they forced two 3-pointers, both of which were air balls.
“We battled well all game. It came down to the last 40 seconds. We’d rebounded well all game and then couldn’t get a rebound off a missed free throw,” Willoughby said. “… But the whole game, I thought we competed. And that was good to see.”
The Red Devils have relied on 3-point shooting all year, and it helped them win on Saturday. They hit six 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and finished with 10 overall. Garlitz made four 3s (including three in the fourth quarter) and finished with 14 points while Frederick made two and also finished with 14. Knostman made one 3 and finished with 12 points.
“That makes them really hard to defend, especially when you’re as tall as they are and still can handle the ball, are a good passer and can shoot from the perimeter,” Willoughby said.
Knostman, who signed with Winthrop in November, is averaging a triple-double. He’s one of three Tippecanoe starters that are 6-foot-4 or taller.
Sidney senior forward Avante Martin (6-2) managed to score 17 points despite the height disadvantage and Swiger (6-2) finished with eight. Vordemark led the squad with 18, many of which came on drives to the post.
“I think this shows how good we can be,” Willoughby said. “… That’s all we preach. We just want to battle. If you’re willing to battle the whole game and play within the team structure, most times things take care of themselves.
“A couple of times we could have got down on ourselves, but we stayed in there. …Defensively we got our hands on a lot of balls, and that got us back into the game.”
Taborn finished with 12 points, 10 of which came in the second half. Johnson finished with 10, all of which came in the first half.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.