Source: Bryant Billing | Sidney Daily NewsVideo of Kyle Koch’s game-winning 3-pointer for Lebanon.
VANDALIA — Sidney’s boys basketball team has battled when playing taller opponents all throughout the year and did again in a Division I sectional opener against Lebanon on Wednesday night at Vandalia-Butler’s Student Activity Center.
But a big run in the last 80 seconds by the Warriors — and a controversial call at the buzzer — ended the Yellow Jackets’ season.
Kyle Koch hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the No. 13 seed Warriors to a 54-53 win over Sidney. It capped off an 11-2 run by Lebanon over the last 80 seconds that allowed the squad to rally from an eight-point deficit.
The No. 8 seed Yellow Jackets finish 18-5 overall.
Koch was near the arc when shooting just to the right of the top of the key, and his right foot appeared to be touching the line when jumping.
But the shot was ruled a 3-pointer by the officiating crew, and Lebanon’s bench erupted in celebration.
“I knew when we scouted them that (Koch) was going to be trouble for us,” Willoughby said. “That was a nice shot. But that was a 2. Wasn’t the first call they missed, but that was a big one. We’ve got video evidence of it that it was a 2.
“But I guess we shouldn’t have let it get there. We make our free throws, it doesn’t come down to that.”
The game turned quickly.
With Sidney ahead 51-43, Kam O’Connor hit a 3-pointer from about seven feet behind the left wing with about 1:20 left, then the Warriors ripped the ball away shortly after the inbounds pass and got it to Koch in the post, who made a basket to cut the gap to three points with just over a minute left.
“They hit that deep 3, and we couldn’t advance the ball up the court,” Willoughby said. “I don’t think anyone felt comfortable with (the ball).”
Sidney split a pair of free throws in the final minute and led 53-52 with about 10 seconds left. The Warriors (10-13) got the ball after a missed free throw, drove down and called a timeout with about five seconds left.
Koch took the inbounds pass a little inside the arc, dribbled slightly back and pulled up for the game-winning jumper.
Lebanon’s big late run bookended a strong run to start the game. The Warriors scored the first six points and led 14-5 at the end of the first quarter.
But Sidney scored the first eight points of the second quarter, including two 3-pointers by Sam Reynolds, to pull within 14-13. Mitchell Davis made a late basket to tie it 18-18 at halftime.
“I’m proud of them for the effort,” Willoughby said. “They worked hard to get back in the game. Lebanon’s a strong team. They run good stuff. I thought our defense was excellent all night. They just made some shots. And we didn’t hit some free throws at the end that could have put the game away.”
Sidney scored five straight points in the first minute of the third and pushed its lead to 37-30 by the end of the quarter.
The Yellow Jackets pushed their lead to 11 points early in the fourth and appeared to be in control until Lebanon’s quick 5-0 run cut the gap from eight points to three.
Koch finished with 21 points. O’Connor, who scored several deep 3s, finished with 20.
“(O’Connor’s) shot were huge,” Willoughby said. “I thought they were going to shoot their way out if it, taking shots like that. But when he made one or two of them, you knew it was trouble.”
Sidney senior forward Jaden Swiger scored 20 points, 18 of which came in the second half. Swiger, who is 6-foot-2, was outsized going against a pair of 6-4 defenders and one 6-7 defender.
Willoughby said it was a fitting end for Swiger, who averaged a team-best 16.2 points per game this year. He finishes with 699 career points and in the top 20 on Sidney’s all-time scoring list.
“He’s strong, takes it to the hole,” Willoughby said. “He hit a couple of jumpers tonight too. Good effort by him. Strong defense too. We were trying to get him the ball at the end to shoot some free throws, but we just didn’t get it to him.”
Swiger, who was the only returning varsity player from a 10-9 campaign last year, is one of four seniors Sidney will lose to graduation. The squad will also lose Landon Davis, Jack Davidson and Jaden Scherer, who were all first-year varsity players. Davis started, and Davidson was a key bench player.
“With the inexperience they had the varsity level, it says a lot about them. It says everything about them,” Willoughby said. “I’m proud of them. Glad I was able to coach those guys.”
Sidney, which won the overall MVL title for the second time in three years, will return four key players in Reynolds, Myles Vordemark, Julius Spradling and Mitchell Davis.
Reynolds averaged 15.8 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals per game. Vordemark averaged nine points and four rebounds, Spradling averaged eight points, three rebounds and 2.3 steals and Mitchell Davis averaged four points in two rebounds off the bench in relief of Swiger and his older brother Landon in the post.
“Nice group there,” Willoughby said. “We’ve just got to get the younger kids ready to go with them. You’re not going to beat Julius, Myles, Sam and Mitchell. Great group.”
Reynolds finished with eight points on Wednesday. Landon Davis scored seven points and had three steals and three assists. Spradling scored seven points and had five assists, four steals and four rebounds. Vordemark scored four points and had four assists and three rebounds.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.