SIDNEY — Sidney showed in the last three quarters of a Miami Valley League crossover game on Wednesday it can still play with the league’s best squads.
But the Yellow Jackets couldn’t overcome a slow first quarter.
Sidney rallied from a 10-point deficit and tied it in the final minute, but Vandalia-Butler reclaimed the lead and held on for a 41-39 victory.
The Yellow Jackets (12-5, 11-2 MVL Valley Division) cruised to a 60-36 win when the teams met in Vandalia on Dec. 11. But with junior forward Regan Clark (who scored 19 points in the December matchup) done for the season, the Yellow Jackets were undersized and short on experience on Wednesday.
Sidney, which now has one upperclassmen in its starting five, struggled to shoot and to get offensive rebounds in the first quarter and fell behind 14-4. But despite the loss, coach Jamal Foster was happy the squad rallied.
“It shows they’re learning and accepting the coaching,” Foster said. “This group has been shorthanded for a while now. This shows the type of fight and integrity they have. Even though we lost, I was proud of the fight.”
With the loss and Troy’s 60-9 win over Fairborn on Wednesday, the Trojans are now in first place in overall MVL standings. Troy (12-5, 12-1 MVL Miami) is scheduled to play at Sidney this Wednesday.
The Yellow Jackets maintain a one-game lead over West Carrollton (10-3, 7-3) in the Valley Division. The Pirates, which have lost their last two league games, are scheduled to play at Sidney on Jan. 29.
After Butler (12-3, 9-3 MVL Miami) dominated the first quarter, Sidney cut the gap to six early in the second. But the Aviators finished with a run to increase the lead to 22-13 at halftime.
The Yellow Jackets had a big third quarter to get back in it. Allie Stockton hit a jumper after a steal with 2:28 left in the third to cut the gap to 26-21.
Butler scored four of the next six points to take a 30-23 lead, but the Yellow Jackets scored the last six points of the quarter (including a jumper off the glass by Stockton with 4 seconds left) to cut the gap to 30-29.
Stockton, a junior guard who ranks third in the MVL with an average of 16.4 points per game, finished with 16 points. She scored eight in the third quarter.
“Everybody struggled to put the ball in the hole in the first half,” Foster said. “But to be able to see the ball go in in the second half and have the confidence to stay doing what you can do, shows the player she is.”
Sidney tied it 33-33 early in the fourth, but the Aviators went on a 4-2 run to take a 38-35 lead with about three minutes left.
Larkyn Vordemark hit a jumper with 2:35 left to cut the gap to one again. Both squads missed shots over the next 90 seconds.
Butler junior guard Sam Bardonaro split a pair free throws with 1:07 left to push the lead to 39-37, but Stockton drove inside and hit a shot off the glass with 50 seconds left to tie it.
The Aviators drained the clock, and Bardonaro hit a jumper with 8.4 seconds left to give the Aviators a two-point lead. Sidney worked the ball to its side of the court and called a timeout.
Vordemark got off two late shots but couldn’t hit either.
Foster said a better defensive effort — which created turnovers — contributed to the better performance in the second half.
“We’re able to defend a high level, we just have to do it for four quarters,” Foster said. “It’s not good enough to do it for one, it’s not good enough to do it for two. We’re good enough to defend for four quarters. We’ll get there, but we have to believe it first.”
The already shorthanded Yellow Jackets played the last minute without sophomore point guard Kiara Hudgins, who fouled out. Hudgins has started at the position since junior Lexee Brewer suffered a season-ending knee injury in December.
Foster said he was happy with the squad’s offense in the last minute but said it was difficult to play without Hudgins late.
“Her energy, her toughness, and her defense are great,” Foster said. “You miss that experience in that moment, her ball handling.
“But we can’t put ourselves in that position. Walking out of this game, learning how to play in close games is immeasurable. We’ll get better. We’re young, and you’ve got to be in it to go through it. We’re in it now.”
Bardonaro led Butler with 22 points.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.