The Yellowjackets scored 60 points in the second and third quarters to bury the Trojans and gave fair warning for what might lie ahead.
Troy—It isn’t often that a team shoots 52% from the floor in the first half and goes to the locker-room trailing by 18 points.
It happened to the Troy Trojans Tuesday night at the Trojan Activity Center.
Sidney closed the first half with a 17-3 run, then opened the second half with a 15-2 burst to turn an entertaining game into a rout. Troy made it respectable in the fourth quarter, but the 83-64 win sent a message to Sidney opponents—the Jackets can be very, very good.
“That’s a good win for us,” said an obviously pleased Sidney coach John Willoughby. “Allec Gordon came off the bench and gave us a great boost with his energy, getting loose balls and rebounds, along with his points. We were having trouble finding their number 14 (Ryan McClurg) and he hit a couple of threes on us. Andre(Gordon) got in foul trouble, so we switched to the 2-3 zone and it changed the game.”
“The second quarter killed us, and we couldn’t recover,” said Troy head coach Paul Bremigan. “We have to do a better job of doing what we do. We didn’t defend, we didn’t rebound well, and we got it handed to us.”
With the Jackets up 31-27, Willoughby went to a 2-3 zone, and the Jackets took off. Andre Gordon capped a 12-0 run with a no-look pass for a layup by Allec Gordon, then, after a steal, got the first of his three dunks on the night to make it 43-27.
“The end of the first half was just a buzzsaw,” Bremigan continued. “They got some loose balls, we had some turnovers, and they hit some shots. They took advantage of a lot of things.
Gordon had plenty of help on this night, but make no mistake: the 6-1 sophomore is the straw that stirs the drink for the Yellowjackets. He finished with 16 points, and each dunk was more impressive than the last, including a two-handed, behind the head slam late in the third quarter that had even some Trojan fans on their feet.
“Andre makes us go, no question,” praised his coach. “When he pushes the ball and makes smart decisions, a lot of people benefit from that. He is very unselfish, and loves to pass the basketball as much as scoring and dunking.”
The points came from everywhere for the Yellowjackets. The afore-mentioned Allec Gordon led the way with 18 off the bench, Devan Rogers muscled his way to 16 points in the paint, and Ratez Roberts hit a variety of shots to finish with 14. Throw in Isaiah Brower’s 9, and the Jackets were a threat to score from every position on the floor.
“I was hoping to get some stops early in the second half and get back in the game,” said Bremigan. “But they scored on their first three possessions, and that made it tough. We wanted to keep battling, keep competing and for the most part we did that.”
“I was real happy with the way we played in the third quarter,” explained Willoughby. “Most people don’t realize we start three sophomores and two juniors. They are still learning their way, and they are going to take some lumps. But they are smart kids and talented players.”
For the Trojans part, they competed. They simply had no answer for the talent that Sidney displayed. The Trojans were led by Hayden Kotwica’s 17 points, Zach Reichelderfer added 12, and Eli Palmer and Zion Taylor each had 10 off the Trojans bench.
Sidney was 36 of 71 from the floor for 51%, but 24 of 39 for 62% in the middle two quarters. Sidney was just 3 of 16 behind the arc, and 8 of 9 from the line. Troy was also more than respectable, shooting 49% from the floor, 41% from the arc, and 70% from the line.
The Yellowjackets outrebounded the Trojans 27-21, including 13-7 on the offensive glass, and had just 9 turnovers, most of them by the second team in the fourth quarter, to the Trojans 19.
“This team can be pretty good,” Willoughby acknowledged. “We spread the points around tonight, and we need to do that. Before tonight, if Andre was struggling, we couldn’t score. Tonight we did a really good job of finding the open man and getting him the basketball. That’s what we have to do to be really good.”
The game restored a coaching rivalry between Willoughby and Bremigan, who battled at Russia and Houston for 25 years.
“It’s always great to see Paul,” Willoughby said. “He’s a great coach and we are good friends. Hey, it’s about time I got him in the regular season. He and I are both still learning. I always enjoy coaching against him.”
“It did seem familiar,” Bremigan said with a laugh. “Just a bigger gym. He and I have coached against each other for a long time. Never stopped to count it up, but it has to be 60-70 times we have faced each other.”
Bremigan said it will be back to the drawing board for the Trojans.
“I thought we had things figured out after Friday night (a 75-67 loss at Greenville). Obviously, we have work to do. We have to work harder in practice and get things straightened out. Look at the film and fix what’s broken. We have to get ready for Friday night. We don’t have time to worry about this one. You almost wish you could play tomorrow after a game like tonight.”
Willoughby said his first year as Sidney coach so far been a learning experience.
“The kids have been great. They love to play basketball. I can tell them directly what I want or don’t want from them and they are very respectful. Just like the kids were at Houston. Most people don’t think that way, but they have been great. The biggest adjustment has been that I am not familiar with the competition, and that has been a challenge for me. That, and I have to keep the kids a little more engaged at practice. Because they want to go. They are all very competitive. But that’s a good thing, and we are excited to see where this team can go.”