RIVERSIDE — Sidney has been built around speed the last three seasons, and troubles have come against opponents who’ve slowed the pace down.
The Yellow Jackets had difficulty early against a methodical Stebbins squad that stayed in a Miami Valley League Valley Division game on Wednesday by hitting shots — some of which looked way off the mark as they left player’s hands, but somehow found the way into the net.
But Sidney sped things up in the last two minutes of the second quarter and quickly turned an eight-point lead into a running-clock advantage on their way to a 78-38 victory.
It’s the fourth consecutive win for Sidney (4-1, 3-0 MVL Valley) since a season-opening loss to Russia and the team’s third consecutive MVL win by 40 or more points.
“We started off super slow but had a good halftime talk,” Sidney junior guard Allie Stockton said. “We had a good talk about sharing the ball and speeding up our tempo. I feel like we did really well in that in the second half. We looked, we made the extra pass. I think that was the difference.”
Sidney scored the first six points and looked to be on its way to another running-clock win, but Stebbins finished the quarter with a 13-12 scoring advantage to cut the gap to five points heading into the second.
The second quarter went much the same way until Sidney forced several late turnovers that fueled an 11-2 run and increased the lead to 39-22 at halftime.
“You’ve just got to play through possessions,” Sidney coach Jamal Foster said. “We have to finish possessions better. We guarded and felt like we were solid on defense, but we’ve got to finish the possession out.
“I think at the end of the second quarter, we did a better job of cutting the girls off, playing the passing lanes and creating easy buckets.”
Part of Sidney’s early struggles was poor shooting, including by Stockton, who scored 685 points her first two seasons.
Stockton and her teammates all shot better in the second half. She scored 12 of her game-high 21 points in the third to help lead a 28-12 scoring advantage that gave the Yellow Jackets a 67-34 lead heading into the fourth.
“Just keep shooting, because eventually it’s going to have to fall,” Stockton said. “I tried some mid-range (shots) in before I stepped back out, and they started to fall.”
Stockton, together with friend and fellow junior guard Lexee Brewer, has led the squad the last three years. The addition of freshmen Jordan Scully and Larkyn Vordemark this year and the continued development of sophomore Kiara Hudgins has given the squad plenty of scoring options at guard.
That has worked out, as Stockton drew a lot of defensive attention in the squad’s first several games and didn’t shoot as well as she’s accustomed.
Now five games into the season, Stockton said she’s finding a rhythm. That includes areas other than scoring.
“I’m really trying to work on other things (aside from scoring),” Stockton said. “I’m getting my rebounds and assists up, the stuff to take me to the next level.”
Foster said she did those other things well Wednesday, especially in the second half.
“Coming out the second half, she really established herself, not just in the scorebook, but on the glass,” Foster said. “She started defending well, getting her hands on balls, finishing around the bucket and getting to the free-throw line. Those are things we expect her to do, being a three-year starter.”
Stockton’s recruitment picked up over the summer. Stockton, who is 5-foot-9 and plays for Ohio Elite AAU in the spring and summer, visited Florida Atlantic, Oakland (Michigan) and Tiffin among other universities this summer and fall.
“It’s going pretty good. I talk to a lot of schools pretty heavily every week,” Stockton said. “Just hoping to finish off a good school season and have a big summer.”
After winning MVL Valley Division titles the last two years, the Yellow Jackets are aiming for an overall MVL title this year. They’ll face a big early-season test to that goal on Saturday when they travel to Vandalia-Butler (5-0, 3-0 MVL Valley).
Sidney will likely be without Brewer on Saturday, and possibly for a lot longer. She went down with what appeared to be a serious knee injury late in the third quarter when she landed hard on the court after driving inside and colliding with two Stebbins defenders while shooting.
Brewer was unable to put any pressure on her right leg, and Foster carried her off the court into Stebbins’ training room.
“That was rough,” Stockton said. “She’s a big piece. Hopefully, we pick it up in practice.”
Brewer finished with 11 points on Wednesday. She averaged 10 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 6.5 steals in the Yellow Jackets’ first four games.
Foster said he was proud of how the squad continued to play after Brewer’s injury. The Yellow Jackets finished with an 11-4 scoring edge in the fourth.
“Any time that happens, it’s tough to see. But when it’s a girl like her who gives it everything she’s got and is a big part of what we do, it’s even tougher,” Foster said. “But the girls picked her up in spirit. They finished the game out. They were mentally tough.”
Vordemark finished with 15 points while Scully and Regan Clark each added nine. Kelis McNeal added seven.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.