TROY — After a lot of regular-season success the last two years, Sidney’s seasons ended in the first round of tournament play after nailbiting losses at Troy’s Trojan Activities Center.
A repeat of the storyline looked possible in the first half of a Division I sectional opener on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets went into the locker room tied with Tecumseh after managing to score just three points the second quarter.
“We talked about what we wanted to do in the second half, and we asked each other if we wanted the season to be over,” Sidney coach Jamal Foster said of his halftime message.
“‘Do you want the season to be over?’ Every single girl said no, every single coach said no. We know our history in the tournament on this court. We didn’t want to end it today.”
The Yellow Jackets didn’t let it end.
Sidney, the Dayton D-I sectional’s No. 5 seed, scored the first 12 points of the third quarter and ran away to beat the No. 11 seed Arrows 52-37.
The victory advances the squad to a Div. I sectional final against Beavercreek, which is scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in Troy. The Beavers edged Sidney 40-39 in a first-round tournament game last season.
Foster was thrilled the Yellow Jackets (18-5) earned their long-awaited tournament win. It’s another accomplishment in a season that has also included the overall MVL title.
And it’s a fantastic building block considering Sidney has played mainly just its five starters in the second half of the year, four of which are underclassmen.
“They always surprise me,” Foster said. “They work hard in practice. The compete at a very high level all the time, which translates to the game. I’m just super proud of how they want to get better. That’s the big thing. They want to get better.”
Aside from freshman post Kendall Dickman playing about four minutes off the bench on Saturday, Sidney’s five starters played the whole game.
And it was the performance of a freshman that made the biggest difference.
Larkyn Vordemark, who is one of four freshmen who played for Sidney on Saturday, led the squad with 16 points. She scored 12 in the second half, four of which came during the 12-0 run Sidney went on in the first three minutes of the third quarter.
“When Larkyn puts her mind to it, she’s really, really good,” Foster said. “She was going to the basket. She didn’t settle. Defensively, she got herself going. She doesn’t understand how much she means to this group. As she grows up, she’s (understanding it more).”
Junior guard Allie Stockton scored 15 points, including six during the 12-0 run. Freshman guard Jordan Scully scored nine and sophomore point guard Kiara Hudgins scored eight. Freshman forward Kelis McNeal scored four points and led the squad with nine rebounds.
It was a total team effort defensively as well. The Arrows committed 23 turnovers and managed to get six offensive rebounds while shooting 35 percent from the floor.
Sidney scored four points in the last minute of the first quarter (including a put-back by Stockton at the buzzer) to take a 13-10 lead.
But the Yellow Jackets struggled to hit shots in the second quarter, and Tecumseh used a 6-3 advantage to tie it 16-16 at halftime.
But Sidney’s full-court press caused turnovers the entire second half, including a flurry in the first few minutes of the third that helped power the 12-0 run which put the squad ahead 28-16.
“Coming out in the second half, we wanted to get easier shots,” Foster said. “We felt like we struggled on the offensive end in the first half. We wanted to get easier shots closer to the bucket. Larkyn finishes well, and we tried to get her and Allie closer to there. Kiara did a good job of initiating the offense.”
The Arrows finished the first on a 7-3 run to pull within 31-23 heading into the fourth quarter. The Yellow Jackets scored the first six points of the fourth quarter, but the Arrows hit two 3-pointers to cut the gap back to eight points.
Sidney followed with an 8-4 run to push the lead to 45-32 and led by double digits the rest of the game.
The Yellow Jackets will try to keep the tournament run going against No. 7 seed Beavercreek (15-8) on Wednesday. The Beavers, which tied for third in the Greater Western Ohio Conference, beat Stebbins 67-27 in a tournament opener on Saturday in Troy.
“They looked good, and a little different (from last year),” Foster said. “No zone, all press. They’re a little smaller than last year, but they’re really fast and active and well-coached. We’ll get back to work in practice and get ready for them.”
Gabrielle Russell led Tecumseh (15-8) with 17 points, including all 10 of the squad’s first-quarter points. She had a game-high 12 rebounds and four blocks.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.