TROY — Sidney has been at a height disadvantage many times over the last two seasons but managed to win at least 15 games each year anyway.
That height disadvantage proved costly to making a postseason run for the second consecutive year, though.
The Yellow Jackets took an early lead in a Division I sectional semifinal against Beavercreek on Saturday and stayed close after losing it. But Sidney’s rebounding struggles limited its second-chance opportunities and gave the Beavers plenty, which resulted in a 40-39 loss.
“When weren’t going to grow overnight,” Sidney coach Jamal Foster said. “We knew they were tall and their girls were physical in there. We knew we were going to have to do better on the glass, and tonight wasn’t our best day of rebounding. I think it showed in the pivotal moments. Rebounds matter, and we didn’t get enough of them.”
It’s the team’s second consecutive close tournament loss. Sidney lost 51-48 to Vandalia-Butler in a tournament opener last year.
The Yellow Jackets, which won the Miami Valley League Valley Division for a second consecutive year, finish 16-6 overall.
They’ll lose three seniors to graduation, including forward Samantha Reynolds, who was named honorable mention all-MVL after bringing down an average of 8.2 rebounds per game and scoring an average of six points.
“Sam’s athleticism and the effort she gives being undersized is huge,” Foster said. “She goes in there and battles with those girls shows a lot of heart. You can’t say enough about some of things she’s done for us the last couple of years. There’s a reason she’s been honorable mention all-league the last three years.”
Sidney will also lose guard Kelsey Kizer and forward Makayla Hurey to graduation. Kizer was a normal starter along with Reynolds but missed several games due to injury, including Saturday’s contest and the squad’s last two regular-season games.
“Kelsey’s shooting and Makayla’s leadership will be missed,” Foster said. “Those three (seniors) were big for us in many different ways on and off the court. The juniors next year have a tough task filling those shoes as seniors next year.”
Sidney, which was voted the No. 7 seed in the Dayton Div. I sectional, played without at least one starter in almost all of its games. With the squad still being mostly made of underclassmen, that led to some struggles, even in games that team pulled away late in.
But Foster said he was proud of how players stepped up when needed during the season and is looking forward to seeing how they continue to progress in future years.
Sidney looks to have four key guards back next season, including sophomore Allie Stockton, who was a first-team all MVL selection for the second consecutive year. She averaged 16.3 points and six rebounds per game.
Foster is also counting on the return of sophomore guard Lexee Brewer and freshman guard Kiara Hudgins. Brewer averaged 10.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game and was also a first team all-MVL selection. Hudgins averaged 9.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game and was a second team all-MVL selection.
The squad will also look for the return of freshman guard Kimora Johnson, who was a key player off the bench and also started a couple of games.
“For us, the next step we want to make is to continue the regular season success and build a postseason run,” Foster said. “We’ve got some girls that are going to be growing from underclassmen to upperclassmen. Freshman are getting more minutes. It seems we’re getting our core together. I think we’ve just got to get a little bit better in the offseason in order to get ready for a postseason run.”
Beavercreek entered Saturday’s game with an 8-13 record — but was voted the sectional’s No. 10 seed after many strong performances against a stacked schedule. Eight of the Beavers’ losses came to Greater Western Ohio Conference foes Centerville, Wayne, Springboro and Miamisburg, all of which were ranked in the Associated Press state D-I poll during regular season.
Six-foot-1 forward Anna Landing, 5-10 center Zoey Bent and 5-8 guard Maci Rhoads helped the Beavers grab up most rebounds on Saturday. But Sidney’s hot early shooting — and lack of a need for offensive rebounds — helped the team take control in the first quarter.
Thanks to a couple of early fast-break baskets, Sidney built an early 9-6 lead. After the Beavers pulled within one point, Kiara Hudgins hit a 3 from the left corner with about 20 seconds left in the first to give the squad a 12-8 lead heading into the second.
Beavercreek switched to a zone defense late in the first quarter. Sidney struggled to get penetration looks the rest of the game and didn’t hit many jumpers, either.
The Yellow Jackets scored the first basket of the second quarter to take a six-point lead, but Beavercreek finished the quarter with a 13-5 run to take a 21-19 halftime lead.
Beavercreek pulled ahead by four points late in the first but Johnson made two free throws with 45 seconds left to tie it 31-31.
The teams traded baskets early in the fourth. Beavercreek took a three-point lead midway through but Brewer hit a pair of free throws with 3:02 left to cut the gap to 38-37.
Both teams missed several scoring opportunities, but the Beavers broke a long scoreless streak when Riley Steinbrunner made a pair of free throws with 18.4 seconds left.
Brewer made a driving layup with about six seconds left to cut the gap to one, but the Beavers ran out the clock.
Stockton led the team with 11 points. Brewer scored 10 and Hudgins finished with nine.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.