SIDNEY — Blowouts can be hard to players on the losing side to handle — especially when teams are used to success.
And when an instance like Sidney’s game against Trotwood-Madison on Wednesday happens, coach Laruen Stefancin knows it can be even more frustrating. The Yellow Jackets had lost four games in a row and have struggled in many games this season. Wednesday’s was the team’s worst loss yet, as the Rams jumped out to a 27-point first-quarter lead on their way to a 98-27 win.
But Stefancin doesn’t want the the Yellow Jackets (2-14, 2-8 Greater Western Ohio Conference American North) to be too disappointed. Trotwood (12-2) is ranked No. 7 in the state in Division II and averages nearly 70 points per game.
“We’ve won two games, and they’re a really good team,” Stefancin said. “Just because we’re not as good as them doesn’t mean that we haven’t gotten a lot better.”
Sidney lost its first nine games, and only one of the losses in that stretch came by a single-digit margin. The Yellow Jackets averaged 32.1 points through the first nine games and didn’t score more than 37 points in any contest.
But after a 97-34 loss to Tecumseh on Dec. 28, Sidney posted consecutive wins over West Carrollton (49-46) and Xenia (48-30).
Though the team hasn’t won since, they’ve been playing teams closer, with three out of their last five losses coming by margins of 10 points or less. They’ve averaged 40.4 points per game since their loss to Tecumseh.
“It’s the small stuff like that I hope the girls see,” Stefancin said. “Watching the film from our first game and comparing to now, they’ve grown so much. We write goals on a board in our locker room every single day, every single game with what we want to achieve. We started at less than 40 turnovers, and now we’re at less than 20. We started at more than 20 points. Now we’re at more than 35.
“They’ve gotten so much better and so much more confident in themselves that I don’t even care what that score says. They knew going into this game that Trotwood was a tough team. They left the game knowing that they played hard and gave everything that they had and did what the coach asked. That’s all I could ask for.”
Junior guard Alina Kindle averages 11.9 points per game. Sophomore guard Carly Dean, junior forward Kyana Johnson and senior guard Carrie Nuss all average between 5.6 and 5.8 points per game.
Sidney won over 14 games each of the last five seasons. During much of that stretch, the team benefited from the post play of 5-foot-10 forward Sylvia Hudson and 6-2 center Celena Taborn. Both are now playing in college (at Urbana and Furman University, respectively) and the Yellow Jackets don’t have a player over 5-8.
Stefancin, who is in her first season after taking over for Megan Mummey, said the transition for the young group to being a guard-oriented team has not been without struggles. But she’s seen improvements, especially in ball-handling and shooting ability.
“From the first practice, our shots were okay. Now we’re hitting jump shots and 3’s easy,” Stefancin said. “Our ball handling’s gotten a million times better. We’ve got more confident point guards. At the beginning of the year, we had one confident point guard, and that was Carrie (Nuss). Now I see about three or four. They’re confident in bringing the ball up and handling the pressure.”
Even with the improvement, a loss like Wednesday’s can be tough to take. More blowout losses could be in the team’s future as well. The Yellow Jackets are playing at Div. II No. 5 ranked Tippecanoe (15-2, 10-0 GWOC North) on Saturday and will likely face one of Dayton’s best D-I teams in the first round of the tournament next month.
“When I played I lost by 52 in regionals, and I’ve explained to the girls that, yeah, it sucks and it’s embarrassing, but it’s what you take from the game,” Stefancin said. “If you sit there and say, ‘I didn’t do this, this and this right,’ instead of going ‘I did this right but could have done this better,’ it’s not good. You’ve got to throw in the positives, because if you just look at the negatives, what you did wrong, you beat yourself up. Even when the game’s already over three days later.
“I hope they see that in themselves that they’ve gotten a lot better. That’s all I can ask.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.