Sidney atoned for a heart-breaking loss at the beginning of the season, and served notice at Piqua’s expense that stopping the Jackets can be like stopping a freight train.
Sidney – Officially, it looked like your average 78-63 win in the scorebook. That was the margin by which Sidney atoned for a heart-breaking one-point loss to the Piqua back in December…in Piqua’s gym.
Unofficially, of course, it was nothing like that game, a game that Sidney freshman Andre Gordon remembered after Tuesday’s 15-point Yellow Jacket win as one they should never have lost. Piqua won that December game by a single point, a game in which the Indians did a lot of things right in the second half to stage a comeback.
Tuesday, Gordon and company didn’t stop with doing a lot of things right. Rather, they did “everything” right to ensure that it didn’t happen again.
The mature-beyond-his-years freshman scored 18 points and ignited a raucous home crowd atmosphere with three highlight dunks.
Teammates Lorenzo Taborn and Devan Rogers, who look like a pair of aircraft carriers in sneakers, were unstoppable in the paint, combining for 20 points.
Guard Cameron Gallimore chunked in 16 points; Isaiah Bowser added 11, and Darryl McNeal another 10.
The Yellow Jackets missed so many free throws in the first meeting that someone later joked about seeing Dr. Naismith (the inventor of basketball) get up, put on his coat, and leave the gym. They fixed that, too. Tuesday the ‘Jackets connected on 17 of 23 (74%).
And just to make sure…they packed the quaint confines of the Sidney gym with a wild and appreciative home crowd. The home-court advantage? They call it “Jacket Pack” in Sidney, rowdy and ready to go, in the words of second-year coach Andy Slaughter.
Piqua, on the other hand, did little to help their own cause this time. Offensively the Indians appeared to set a modern school record for frustrating misses around the rim – one bunny, one layup after another, that precariously hung on the lip of the rim and then rolled off. If you subtract senior Colton Bachman’s 25 points, the Indians would have been in a world of hurt. Bachman, who entered Tuesday’s game with something like 1,400 career points, scored 33 in the first game, but nothing he could do this time (and he did plenty) would have been enough.
The Indians finished shooting just 39%, and connected on just 8 of 25 three-point attempts (32%).
Sidney shot marginally better (44%), and hit but 5 of 18 from behind the arc (28%). But Piqua had no answer for the likes of Taborn and Rogers inside, who combined add up to about 12′ 8″, and 500 pounds.
“We preached that for the last two days of practice,” said Slaughter, of Taborn and Rogers’ work. “Get the ball inside, get the ball inside…get the ball inside! We wanted to play inside out, and when we were able to do that we got Monnin (Nate Monnin) in foul trouble and they got frustrated. We got so many open looks and just continued to score.”
That was the official part of what Slaughter had to say. The unofficial part, the part that doesn’t show up in the scorebook, was just as important.
“Our crowd…man, what a crowd we had tonight,” he added. “It was all the way up to the roof and that’s the first time in two years I’ve seen that many people in here. We came out with great intensity and passion and I credit a lot of that to our fans and community. They were rowdy and ready to go. They were yelling at the other team even during warmups. I understand that you can’t do that in Wisconsin now, but this isn’t Wisconsin. It pumped our guys up. It’s rivalry game and we wanted a little bit of payback for what happened when we went down there at the beginning of the season.”
If you haven’t seen Andre Gordon play…well, it’s worth it just for the off chance that he gets the ball in the open court one-on-one against a helpless defender. Saddled with three fouls in the first half he was a non-factor, sitting for the last five minutes before the break.
But in the second half he came out like man possessed. He scored on a thunderous dunk in the third quarter to extend what was then a six-point Sidney lead. The crowd erupted; the bench spilled out on the court in celebration and appreciation for one of those you-had-to-see-it moments.
In the fourth he reprised his above-the-rimness with a pair of dunks on alley-oop passes from the backcourt. It was like the line from the old country song, “He’s acting single”. Piqua coach Heath Butler might have felt like drinkin’ doubles, the rest of the line from that song.
And in fairness, Colton Bachman could have sung a strong backup. His gallant, 25-point effort on a heavily-braced knee was everything you can ask for from a marquee player in a rivalry game, and it was appreciated by both sides. It just wasn’t enough.
“We knew we had to come out and beat ’em, especially after what happened at their house,” said Gordon. “Everyone did their thing tonight. You don’t see many teams that have guys like Lorenzo and Devan. They’re big and athletic and they can score inside and out. It’s hard to match up with Lorezo because he’s good in the post, and, he’s a good shooter. Devan’s got those sweet moves in the paint, so it’s a big difference for us playing against smaller teams.”
“The dunks get everyone fired up, the crowd and the adrenaline gets pumping, and it seemed to bring more life to the team.”
Uh, yeah! Ask the “Jacket Pack”. And let Mr. Naismith know (if you see him) that he left too soon back in December. This was not the same Sidney team.
“Every team wants to play their best come tournament time,” said Andy Slaughter. “We’ve yet to play our best basketball. We didn’t play very well in the first half tonight. We didn’t play well in some of our early losses. When you have to teach kids how to win that’s going to happen.
“We didn’t make free throws in those games back then. We lost the first Piqua game because we didn’t make free throws. Tonight we made our free throws…our freshman went 8 for 8, and a lot of ’em in the fourth quarter. So if this was the start of us playing our best basketball we feel pretty good about competing against whoever they put in front of us.”
Sidney improved to 14-5 on the season.
Piqua dropped to 9-9, and more poignantly, Tuesday’s loss was their third in a row. Tough, given what the man said about playing your best come tournament time.
And yes…those paybacks are tough!