WEST CARROLLTON — It nearly happened again. But Allie Stockton didn’t let it.
Stockton guided the Yellow Jackets through a tough second half and helped prevent another late collapse in a Miami Valley League Valley Division game on Wednesday against previously undefeated West Carrollton.
The Pirates erased a 15-point halftime deficit and tied the score in the final 90 seconds, but Stockton hit a late free throw, Kelis McNeal came up with a big late block and the Yellow Jackets hung on to win 55-54.
Sidney (8-2, 7-1 MVL Valley) saw a 12-point lead disappear in the last two minutes at Troy on Saturday and lost 46-45.
“I was scared, I was worried,” Stockton, who scored a game-high 24 points, said of seeing another double-digit lead disappear. “But we pulled it out, we pulled through.”
Wednesday’s win keeps Sidney in the MVL title hunt. The Yellow Jackets, Troy (6-4, 6-1 MVL Miami) and West Carrollton (8-1, 5-1) each have one league loss. All other MVL squads have at least three league losses.
The Pirates’ Selena Frost tied it 54-54 on three foul shots with 1:20 left.
Stockton, a junior guard, was fouled with 13.9 seconds left and made the first of a one-and-one to give Sidney a one-point lead.
Sidney was far from out of the woods. West Carrollton entered the game as the best 3-point shooting team in the league and second-best overall shooting team.
“I told the girls to stay off, keep their hands off, because the refs were calling any type of touch,” Stockton said.
Frost worked the ball down the court and passed to junior guard Ashley Williams in the right corner. McNeal, a freshman, rushed over and blocked a 3-point attempt, which went out-of-bounds.
“We needed good ball pressure up top there, and (Kiara Hudgins) and Larkyn (Vordemark) completely did that,” Stockton said. “Kelis had that great block at the end that just sold the deal.”
West Carrollton got it inbounds after a timeout, but heaving shot by Taryn Dewberry from the right corner just before the buzzer fell well short of the rim.
Sidney had cruised in its last six games before losing to Troy on Saturday. Coach Jamal Foster said Saturday’s loss and Wednesday’s close call should be a good learning experience for the squad, which is made mostly of underclassmen.
“We’ve got to finish the game,” Foster said. “There are four quarters in a game. No matter what lead you have, you’ve got to finish it to the final buzzer. …We know how it feels to let one go now. Today, we didn’t want that feeling again.”
The squad nearly relived the feeling from Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets couldn’t be stopped on offense in the first half. They built a 10-4 lead in the first four minutes, pushed it to 20-13 at the end of the first quarter and increased it to 40-25 at halftime. Stockton scored 14 in the first half, Vordemark scored 11 and Regan Clark scored eight.
“We were very active,” Stockton said of the first half. “We were active on rebounds, we found their key players and shut their water completely off. We were good on the defensive end, we passed the ball on offense and we shared. It was just a great first half.”
But the buckets quit falling in the second half as West Carrollton picked up its defensive pressure; four layups by Stockton were the only field goals the squad made the entire half.
“They did a good job of applying pressure in the second half,” Foster said. “We talked about it at halftime. It’s an issue of getting our players used to handling that pressure when it matters. We’ll get better. They’re learning. But we’ve got to get better at playing in crunch time.”
After seeing shots stop falling by teammates in the second half — followed by their hesitancy to shoot —Stockton took over.
Stockton made a basket with 17 seconds left in the third quarter to break a long scoreless streak and put Sidney ahead 47-40 heading into the third.
“Coach told me to keep it,” Stockton said. “The girls weren’t staying in front of me how they needed to, so I just kept it on my hands on the offensive end, talked on D and made everybody play their roles.”
The Pirates had scored the previous seven points before Stockton’s bucket — and kept scoring in the fourth quarter.
West Carrollton went on an 8-5 run in the first four minutes of the fourth to pull within 52-48. Vordemark made two free throws to push the lead to 54-48, but West Carrollton’s Maddie Lindsey made a 3 to cut the gap to three points.
After a five-second violation cost Sidney a possession, the Pirates worked the ball to Frost at the top of the key, who was fouled by Hudgins while shooting with 1:20 left.
Frost made three free throws to tie it 54-54. The Yellow Jackets turned it over on their next possession, but West Carrollton’s Taryn Dewberry missed a driving layup, and Stockton grabbed the rebound with about 50 seconds left.
Foster said he was proud of Stockton for her performance late on Wednesday.
“She wants respect. She feels like she doesn’t get it,” Foster said. “Today was one of those games she wanted to step in and establish herself as one of the top players in the league. I think she did that on both sides of the ball.”
Vordemark finished with 13 points. Clark finished with 11 and Kiara Hudgins scored seven.
“Larkyn provided energy (in the first half) and Regan got paint touches,” Foster said. “We did a lot of good things that we wish we would have done better in the second half. But we got the job done.”
Frost led West Carrollton with 17 points while Neveah Milerton scored 10.
Sidney is scheduled to host Tippecanoe next Wednesday.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.