Sidney found itself down 13 points in the second quarter to third-ranked Trotwood, but the Jackets never panicked and behind a big-time fourth quarter from sophomore Andre Gordon, claimed their biggest win in years.
Sidney – S.R.O.
Standing Room Only.
Finding a seat usually has not been a problem in recent years for Sidney Yellowjacket basketball games.
That, however, is about to change.
Sophomore sensation Andre Gordon, held to five points through the first three quarters, exploded for 14 in the final 8 minutes, including the game winner with four seconds to play, as the Jackets rallied to stun Trotwood 69-67 before a packed house. The Rams entered the game with a 13-1 record and the number three ranking in the state in Division Two.
“This feels like a big tournament win,” said Jackets first year head coach John Willoughby as he accepted congratulations from numerous fans on the court. “We kept our composure. Our defense was pretty solid all night. They made a run in the first half, but that was because we turned the ball over. That was the only time that happened all night.”
The game, which featured 9 ties and 8 lead changes, was even at 14 early in the second quarter, before the Rams went on a 15-2 run to open a 29-16 lead. The Yellowjackets turned the ball over 7 times in the period, and still trailed 33-25 at the break.
“Our big thing was not to get frustrated by their pressure,” explained Willoughby after Sidney improved to 13-3 and 10-0 in the GWOC American Conference. “Early in the week, when we were using extra players on defense to simulate Trotwood’s pressure, we did get frustrated. Finally we said that’s it, because we can’t have that Friday night. If we do, they are just going to bring it down harder. Even when we got down, you didn’t see any sign of us losing our composure.”
The game turned in Sidney’s favor in the third quarter. Ratez Roberts scored 8 points in the period, and Trotwood had problems handling the ball, committing 6 turnovers as the Jackets got back into the game. When Jace Conrad buried a three from the left corner, his only hoop of the night, and the Jackets only three of the second half, Sidney was within a point at 47-46. The Rams led by two after three.
Sidney twice appeared to be in control in the fourth quarter, but the Rams have earned their ranking and they did again with their backs against the wall. Trailing 66-61 with two minutes to play, the Rams scored 6 unanswered points to take their final lead of the night. A Devan Rogers free throw tied it with 30 seconds to play, and the Rams called timeout to set up a final shot with 19 seconds to play.
It was a shot the Rams would never take.
Gordon stole a bounce pass near mid-court and streaked toward the Sidney basket. He bounced off of contact from the Rams Sammy Anderson, and calmly connected on an off-balance jumper to give the Jackets the lead with 4.4 seconds to play.
“I knew the pass was coming,” Gordon explained. “Coach told me if I got it, to go get the layup. I got it, went in and finished, and we won.
“In the second and third quarters I wasn’t scoring like I should. I was getting good looks, but in the fourth, I knew we had to get the win, so I had to do what I had to do.”
The Rams had one more chance, and got a good look, but the shot bounced off the iron as the horn sounded, and the Jackets had their signature victory, their first in the last 16 games and just their third over the Rams in 29 meetings since the 1999-2000 season.
“This is a great team win,” Willoughby exclaimed, on the verge of losing his voice. “Ratez has been steady for us all year, and played great tonight. Our bench has been getting better and better. Jace (Conrad) hit that big three for us, Allec (Gordon) came in and did a great job, and Josiah Hudgins has been playing better in practice. I have been telling everyone that he was coming along, and he played real well for us tonight.”
Hudgins finished with 7 points.
“Early in the game, I wanted to get my teammates involved,” Gordon acknowledged. “I knew if I got them the ball, they would score. Ratez and Isaiah(Bowser) had great games. It was a real team win.”
Both teams shot the ball extremely well. Sidney shot 67% from the floor in the second half, and finished the night at 56%. The Jackets shot 33% from the arc and 64% from the line.
The Rams, who entered the game shooting 56% from the floor, finished at 49%, and just 1 of 9 from the arc. They did hit 12 of 15 free throws for 80%.
Trotwood won the battle of the boards 23-22, and committed 14 turnovers, but 10 in the second half. The Jackets had only 6 turnovers after intermission and finished with 17.
Gordon finished with 19 and Roberts added 18 to lead Sidney. Bowser added 10 and Rogers finished with 8. Trotwood got 19 from sophomore Amari Davis, 17 from Torrey Patton, 13 from Miles Belyeu and 11 from Amir Foster, all in the first half.
“He has so much on his shoulders,” Willoughby said of Gordon. “He makes everybody better. He made some amazing passes to set guys up, and then just took over in the fourth quarter.”
The final horn set off a mad celebration on the court, and Gordon took it all in.
“That was amazing,” he recounted with a big smile. “I lost my voice I was yelling so loud. Tears came to my eyes and I had to find my mom. That was the first person I was looking for. It’s just amazing.”
For Willoughby, even after such a big win, there is always the next game.
“You know, you are talking about 16,17,18 year old kids, so you never know from one day to the next about their focus. We are going to celebrate this game, think good about ourselves for a while, but when we come to practice Sunday night, our focus has to be on Tipp City. That’s the next big game for us.”
Willoughby talked about the significance of the win.
“Sometimes when you have talented kids, they don’t work as hard as they should. I have always coached that even if we are out-manned, we are going to work harder than anybody else. I think we are getting better at that. This wins shows these guys that hard work pays off. Even though we have talented kids, they still work hard every day. That’s what I like about them.”