SIDNEY — Sidney got off to a great start against Butler in a Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division game on Tuesday.
But the problems that have plagued the Yellow Jackets early in the season all reappeared in the second half as Butler stormed back and earned a 58-51 win.
Sidney built a big lead early and led by as many as seven points early in the third quarter. But a few hurried shots and slow passes gave Butler plenty of chances to get the ball back, and the Yellow Jackets were out of place defensively on several plays in the second half as the Aviators mounted their comeback.
“We’d make three great plays or three normal plays, but we’re not satisfied with that,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “So we’ve got to come down and try do something, after we just scored three-straight times on something we’re supposed to do, out of the blue. Something not even in our playbook, thinking, ‘Well, we’ll just go that route.’
“They’re just not satisfied with doing what they should do. They don’t want to make it an easy game.”
It’s the latest win in a hot start to the season for Butler, which improves to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in divisional play.
The Aviators, which beat the Yellow Jackets in Sidney last year as well, have four players averaging eight or more points per game. Their depth was on display on Tuesday as several players made key baskets late.
“We have some guys battling the flu, so our lineup looked a little different,” Butler coach DJ Wyrick said. “… That’s the beauty of our team. We find a way. We have depth, and depth is what really got us over the hump tonight.”
Butler went on a 12-4 run in the third and fourth quarters to take the lead. After Sidney (3-3, 3-2) cut the lead to two points late, the Aviators hit four free throws in the last 50 seconds to secure the win.
Butler jumped in front of several Sidney passes and turned them into points on the other end and also hit a few open 3-pointers during their run run.
“I just never understood, and we did it a lot last year, too,” Willoughby said. “… We run our plays, run our plays, score, score, score, score, get a couple of stops, and then they think it’s time to come out and do things to impress people. I just don’t understand it.”
Sidney led by four points at halftime and was ahead by seven early in the third. The Aviators closed the gap late in the quarter, though. Ryan Wertz hit a 3-pointer with 2:54 left to pull Butler within 42-39, and the teams traded baskets before the end of the third.
Wertz hit another 3 with 7:45 left in the fourth to tie the score 44-44. The teams traded baskets again, then Michael Kreill jumped in front of a pass and scored a layup with 5:03 left to give the Aviators a 48-46 lead.
Sidney called a timeout with 4:27 left, and Kreill followed shortly after play resumed with another steal and layup to push Butler’s lead to four points.
“We went to a zone, and we’re not traditionally a zone team,” Wyrick said. “They’ve got a lot of athleticism and a lot of length. We tried to pack it in and make them beat us from the outside. Fortunately we were packed in enough where on some of those penetrating passes, we were able to get our hands on them and get some easy buckets that way.”
Gordon hit a long jumper with 2:35 left to pull Sidney within 52-50, but Butler’s Trey Sanders scored on a put-back of his own missed shot on the next possession to extend the lead to four.
Ratez Roberts hit a free throw with 52 seconds left to cut Butler’s lead to three points, but Butler’s Braedon Norman and Trey Sanders each hit two free throws to seal the win.
Wyrick said Norman is normally a starter but played sparingly because of illness. Wyrick credited him with playing well late and hitting the two late free throws.
Gordon led Sidney with 18 points, while Roberts finished with 17, 12 of which came in the first half. Devan Rogers scored nine points for the Yellow Jackets.
It’s the lowest scoring output of the season by Gordon, which Wyrick was pleased with.
“They have the best player in the city of Dayton in my opinion on the court,” Wyrick said of Gordon. “Any time you’ve got that, you’ve got a really good chance to win every game you compete in.
“Our goal obviously was to slow him and make somebody else beat us. But he’s a good player. …It’s weird saying this, but I thought we did a good job of holding him to 18. You don’t say that very often about a kid, but he’s that kind of talent.”
Willoughby said he was pleased that Sidney had a good start unlike last Friday’s game at Piqua but was disappointed the team was still unable to put together a consistent effort through four quarters.
“We had the game,” Willoughby said. “We didn’t play our best, but we still had the game. And they don’t see that. It’s frustrating. I thought we played better, I thought we played with a little more enthusiasm, but when it came down to it, a couple of guys just acted like they didn’t give a darn about throwing the ball away or missing layups. I just don’t get that.”
The Yellow Jackets had 14 turnovers and shot 17-of-35 (48.6 percent) from the field.
“It’s just too many little breakdowns here and there that take us out of games sometimes,” Willoughby said. “It’s not just one person, really. If it was one person, I could do something about that. It’s three guys at time. We come out, run plays and run plays, and we call a special play or run our continuity, and there’s one or two guys that can’t get into it.
“You can’t call timeouts every time you come down the floor to run a play. …Something is going on that basketball is not a worry for them right now, and it’s a worry to me.”
Kort Justice finished with 18 for Butler while Kreill scored 13. The Aviators made 8-of-8 free-throw attempts, while Sidney made 12-of-16.
The Yellow Jackets look to have an opportunity to rebound in their next two games. They travel to Greenville (0-6, 0-4) in GWOC North play on Friday and then to Urbana (2-4) on Dec. 29.
“On the positive, we’re playing better and stuff, but it shouldn’t take us this long to get to where we should be,” Willoughby said.
Butler will try to keep its hot start going on Friday with a home game against Tippecanoe (3-1, 2-1).
The teams battled from the start. Justice completed a three-point play with 2:53 left in the second, which capped off a 5-0 run for Butler and tied the game 24-24.
Rogers hit a shot off the glass with 55 seconds left to give Sidney a two-point lead. Roberts followed with a shot off the glass with 32 seconds left to put Sidney ahead 30-26, which was the score at halftime.
Sidney started the game with a big run. Gordon hit a 3-pointer within the first 20 seconds, then Roberts hit a basket two minutes later.
Butler hit a 3 with about five minutes left to get on the board, but Roberts blocked a shot that he recovered and took down the court for a layup to put Sidney up 7-3. Roberts then had a three-point play with 3:20 left to put the Yellow Jackets up by seven.
“I was really disappointed with our guys in the first three minutes,” Wyrick said. “I can live with mental mistakes and things like that. But just lack of effort — effort is an expectation here. They picked it up the second, third, fourth quarter.”
Butler scored the next five points and took the lead with 36 seconds left after Kreill stole the ball from Gordon and threw a bounce pass in to the low post to Justice, who laid a shot off the glass.
Gordon hit a long 3 from the top of the key at the first quarter buzzer to put Sidney up 14-12.
Sidney started the second on a 5-0 run, which Darren Taborn capped off with a shot in the post with 6:38 left. Butler responded with a 7-2 run, but Gordon hit a 3 with 4:14 left to push Sidney’s lead to 24-19.
Sidney continues conference play on Friday at Greenville, while Butler hosts Tippecanoe in league action.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.