SIDNEY — Sidney is still working on finding chemistry this season with almost all its players healthy or eligible to play at the same time after several missed small or large parts of last season.
The Yellow Jackets didn’t perform as consistently as they wanted in a Miami Valley League showdown on Wednesday, but they played well enough to beat previously undefeated Vandalia-Butler.
After the Aviators tied it in the third quarter, Sidney scored the last nine points of the quarter and pulled away to a 46-30 victory.
The Yellow Jackets (4-2) stayed undefeated in MVL play with the victory and remain tied for first place with West Carrollton (5-2) at 4-0 in overall standings. Butler (5-1), Tippecanoe (3-2) and Troy (3-2) are tied for second with 3-1 league records.
Sidney led 13-6 at the end of the first quarter and pushed its lead to double digits in the second before struggling to score in the final minutes, during which time Butler closed the gap to 23-15.
The Aviators then scored the first eight points of the third to tie it with about five minutes left.
“Coach (Jamal Foster) called a timeout and basically lit into us,” Sidney senior guard Allie Stockton said. “He basically told us that we have to put shots away, we’re the better team, we’ve got to slow them down and box out.”
That’s exactly what Sidney did the last 12 minutes, in addition to forcing turnovers with a full-court press that frustrated Butler ball handlers at times.
Sidney scored the last nine points of the quarter to take a 32-23 lead and quickly pushed the gap to double digits in the fourth.
“They showed heart,” Foster said. “Coming out of halftime, we didn’t finish the second quarter the way we wanted to, and we knew Butler could still make a run. But we weren’t guarding the way we wanted to and were leaving a lot of points on the floor.
“We wanted to battle back, get the lead to double digits and show how we could play. They did that.”
Stockton scored seven points in the last 12 minutes and finished with 17. She scored Sidney’s first six points and finished with 10 in the first quarter to help the squad take control early.
“She’s been in every kind of moment since she was a freshman, and she’s a senior now. We’ve relied on her,” Foster said. “We expect her to calm us down in those situations, be the person we go to down the stretch. She’s proven she can do that. I’m happy she made the right plays at the right time.”
Stockton has been a steadying presence as fellow four-year player Lexee Brewer works her way back from injury and guards Jordan Scully and Kimora Johnson (both in their second seasons on the team) see more time handling the ball, especially when Brewer is on the bench.
Stockton, who surpassed 1,200 career points in Wednesday’s win, said Sidney is finding its footing after a brutal scrimmage slate in preseason and early nonconference losses to Russia (6-1) and Cincinnati Purcell Marian (4-1).
“Our team chemistry is great,” Stockton said. “We utilize everybody. It’s been nice having a true point guard back. We were down both point guards in preseason (Brewer and junior Kiara Hudgins), but having Lexee back has helped a lot.”
Sidney senior forward Regan Clark scored nine points while Johnson finished with six, Brewer and Scully finished with five apiece and McNeal finished with four.
Sidney unofficially had a 46-26 rebounding edge and shot 39 percent from the floor while Butler shot 21 percent.
“We knew they were going to be physical,” Foster said. “They have the leading rebounder in the league and are well-coached. We knew that they would come in and try to win the interior, but we wanted to come out, battle, win the glass and create extra possessions. Kelis and Regan were huge down the stretch.”
McNeal guarded Butler senior Sam Bardonaro most of the night. Bardonaro, a four-year player, averaged 20.2 points in the first five games but finished with eight on Wednesday.
“The job Kelis did on Sami night was remarkable,” Foster said.
Noel Smith led Butler with 11.
Sidney, which won the overall MVL title last year, has a big three-game slate approaching. After traveling to Xenia (2-3, 1-3) on Saturday, the squad will host Troy next Wednesday, host West Carrollton next Saturday and travel to Tippecanoe on Dec. 21.
“We have to stay consistent,” Stockton said. “We have to keep rebounding. That’s been our biggest thing; the biggest thing we’re working on right now is rebounding and cutting down on turnovers.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.