TIPP CITY — After two years as divisional champs, Sidney’s getting the largest Miami Valley League trophy this season.
The Yellow Jackets secured at least a share of the overall MVL title on Wednesday by beating Tippecanoe 53-37 at Pat Wampler Gymnasium. The squad can win the title outright on Saturday in Greenville by winning its regular-season finale.
Expectations were high for the squad entering the season. After a tough two-year stretch in which the program won two games, Sidney finished 15-8 in 2019-2020 and won the MVL Valley Division in the league’s first year of existence.
The Yellow Jackets followed with a 16-6 campaign and another Valley Division title last year, but they still finished three games back in overall MVL standings.
With two-time MVL champ Tippecanoe being hit hard by graduation, Sidney looked to be among the favorites this year.
It was far from an easy road. Several players didn’t return from last season, resulting in the program having a total of 15 players, no freshmen team and a limited junior varsity schedule.
Coach Jamal Foster was already planning to play several freshmen a lot on varsity, but the lower numbers meant they’d have even bigger roles. That was especially planned to be the case for the second half of the season, as junior forward Regan Clark, who transferred from Jackson Center, was only eligible to play the first half of regular season due to OHSAA transfer rules.
Then junior Lexee Brewer, the team’s three-year starting point guard, suffered a season-ending knee injury on Dec. 4. After Clark’s final game on Dec. 29, only five players remained that had played any significant time.
But as the slogan Foster came up with for the team before the season suggests, those five players and a few others off the bench proved to be all Sidney needed to win the title.
“It’s great to see the toughness that they’ve put in since the beginning of the season (rewarded),” Foster said. “The numbers were low, and they battled all preseason. We had a hellacious preseason and they came through without saying anything.
“We lost Lex, we lost Regan, and they knew what needed to be done. Freshman stepped up, Kiara (Hudgins) stepped up, Allie (Stockton) stepped up. It’s been a whole program effort. It says something about this group.”
Stockton, a three-year starter who along with Brewer has helped lead the program’s resurgence, led the squad with 25 points on Wednesday. Freshman guard Larkyn Vordemark scored 12 and freshman guard Jordan Scully scored 10.
Vordemark and Scully have seen their playing time increase over the season, as has freshman forward Kelis McNeal. Hudgins, a sophomore, took over as the starting point guard after Brewer’s injury.
But Stockton, who is garnering Division I collegiate interest, has been the team’s leader, especially in the second half of the season. She’s taken on larger roles distributing the ball and directing the squad both on offense and defense.
Stockton, who is 5-foot-9, averages 17.4 points, seven rebounds, three steals and 2.3 assists per game.
“She’s making sure that we’re making winning plays,” Foster said. “She wants to win, as does everybody else in that locker room. She did great today stepping up and making free throws (late).
“She’s player of the year to me (in the MVL). There’s great players in this league, but I’m going off what’s she’s had to do down the stretch for us to win the league. …To lead us, considering all that’s happened, she’s player of the year.”
The Yellow Jackets (16-5, 15-2 MVL Valley) got off to a slow start on Wednesday but took control by the end of the first quarter.
Tippecanoe built an early 5-1 lead, but the Yellow Jackets turned up their defensive pressure, forced turnovers and finished with a 15-3 run to take a 16-8 lead by the end of the quarter. They followed with a similarly strong second quarter and led 30-15 at halftime.
Vordemark and Scully each scored eight points in the first half. Foster said he was pleased with both and was pleased with Hudgins and McNeal’s defensive effort.
“We really locked in on the defensive end the last couple of days of practice,” Foster said. “… If we can come out and defend all 94 feet, we feel like we’ve got a good shot in any game we play.
“… It’s a testament to what (Vordemark and Scully) can do. Their number isn’t always called, but they’re ready when it is. Larkyn comes in with energy, does all the dirty work and can score. She’s a mismatch problem. Jordan has been hot of late. When we have stuff like that going on along with what Kelis chips in, the freshmen really handle their business. And Kiara can really get us going defensively.”
Sidney led by double digits the entire second half; Tippecanoe came no closer than 12 points.
The squad will look to clinch the outright MVL title on Saturday against the Green Wave (4-13), then will turn their attention to the postseason.
Just as winning the overall MVL title has been a big goal, making a postseason run is something the Yellow Jackets are hoping to do.
It won’t be an easy road. Sidney was voted the No. 5 seed in the Dayton Division I sectional and will face No. 11 Tecumseh on Feb. 12 at Troy High School. The Arrows (15-6) are a perennial Central Buckeye Conference power.
“We’ll be ready,” Foster said. “… We want to have an extensive postseason, and I think that these girls are ready. We’ve played a lot of great teams this year, from preseason through regular season, to understand what we need to do. I think we’re heading in the right direction going into tournament.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.