PIQUA — Sidney battled back from a 15-point halftime deficit at Piqua on Friday to earn a 69-61 win. A similar start in a Greater Western Ohio Conference game on Tuesday against Vandalia-Butler, though, may be too much to overcome.
Sidney will host the Aviators in a key early-season GWOC American North Division game on Tuesday. Butler is 5-0 overall and in first place in the North with a 3-0 conference record.
The Aviators started the season with close wins over Springfield Shawnee and Beavercreek but have rolled over three consecutive GWOC American North foes. Butler beat Piqua by 21 points on Dec. 8, Greenville by 76 points on Dec. 12 and Troy by 26 points last Friday.
Sidney’s last two wins have come against Troy and Piqua, and unlike Butler, the Yellow Jackets (3-2, 2-1) need big second half efforts against both opponents to close out the win.
Ratez Roberts, who scored 14 points in the second half of Sidney’s win over Piqua, said a similar bad start can’t happen against Butler.
“We definitely have to come and practice ready to go to get prepared, and we definitely have to come out at the beginning of the game ready to go with some fire,” Roberts said after the win against Piqua.
Kort Justice leads Butler with an average of 13 points per game, while Braedon Norman averages 11.4. Michael Kreill averages 8.6 points and a team high 3.4 assists per game, and Bryant Johnson averages eight points and a team-best 4.8 rebounds per game.
The Aviators are coached by DJ Wyrick, who was on Billy Donlon’s staff at Wright State before leaving for Butler in 2015.
Butler has averaged 60.8 points through its first five games while giving up an average of 37 points.
“They’re a really solid team, man,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “They run their offense really nice. Their defense, they don’t give up anything really easy. They play the gap defense and don’t allow a lot of penetration.
“We have to execute. We didn’t execute real well (against Piqua) — we didn’t run a single play correctly tonight in the first half. Not one. The mindset’s going to have to be a lot better going into Tuesday. I’m hoping tonight kind showed us that we need to be ready every night. When we are ready, we’re a pretty good team. When we’re not ready, we’re a terrible team.”
The good news for Sidney according to Willoughby is 15-point deficits aren’t insurmountable — if the team plays aggressive.
“Fifteen-point deficits at halftime aren’t that big of a deal if we’re playing,” Willoughby said. “If we’re down 15 and are going to come out and play, not that big a deal. But if we’re down 15 and we come out and don’t give a darn about things, it’s too much to come back from. … We’ve just got to be consistent and not make that a thing.”
Willoughby credited aggressiveness as the different in the first half versus the second half against the Indians. He said Sidney wasn’t playing fast enough and putting enough pressure on Piqua defensively and wasn’t trying to find shots in the paint.
“Offensively, we’re just relying too much on shooting 3’s,” Willoughby said. “We’re pretty good inside with (Devan Rogers) and Ratez inside getting to the basket, but we don’t want to take advantage of that. We want to pass the ball, pass the ball and shoot a 3. We’ve got to get that corrected.
After Piqua built a 15-point lead over Sidney in the second quarter, both schools’ competition cheer squads performed during a 20-minute halftime.
The long rest apparently did the Yellow Jackets a lot of good.
“It’s kind of like a Super Bowl, where the team going into halftime kind of loses it because it gives the team that’s behind a little more time to reflect and change their minds about the way their playing,” Willoughby said. “I just put it on the players tonight. They’re the ones that have to do it, they had to decide if they wanted to come out and play.”
Sidney came out of the locker room on fire and took a two-point lead at the end of the third. Piqua then went on an 8-2 run to take a 55-49 lead with 5:55 left in the fourth.
The Indians didn’t score over the next five minutes, though, and Sidney went on a 14-0 run over that time to put the game away.
“When we picked up full-court man there, I think that got us going,” Willoughby said. “It’s weird, man, because we tried to start in our half-court trap to start the game, but we were just giving up everything. So then tried to go man but couldn’t stop (Piqua’s Devon Brown), so then we went zone a little bit. …The kids really did just have to decide if they wanted to come out and play or not, and played (full-court) better.”
Andre Gordon made a basket 34 seconds into the fourth to give Sidney a 49-47 lead. Piqua responded with its run, which Ben Schmiesing capped off with a dunk.
After a timeout, the Yellow Jackets went on the decisive run.
“It was all in our heads in the first half,” Roberts said. “Our coach talked to us and told us to pick it up in the second half. We didn’t come out like that in the first half, but we came out with some fire in the second half and got the win.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.