Sidney atoned Friday for a disappointing performance against Tipp on Tuesday with an offensive outburst and convincing win over Troy.
Sidney – Standout sophomore Andre Gordon admits he knows the expectations are there for the high-flying Sidney Yellow Jackets boys basketball team.
To win the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division? Not exactly.
To surpass the school record for wins in a season, which currently stands at 19? Close, but no.
To entertain the standing-room-only crowds that have packed the Sidney gym this season? Yep.
“We just know that’s our type of game. Get the crowd into it,” said Gordon, who finished a pair of alley-oop dunks off Isaiah Bowser assists in Sidney’s 87-70 win over Troy on Friday night. “Once we get the crowd into it there’s no turning back.”
And on Friday, there was no slowing down a Sidney team fired up from its stunning 55-44 loss to Tippecanoe on Tuesday. The Yellow Jackets stormed to an 18-8 lead after the first quarter, then pushed it to 42-25 at the half by knocking down six 3-pointers in the second quarter.
Troy (5-12 overall, 3-9 GWOC) continued to battle, but like most teams this season had little answer for Gordon. The 6-foot-1 sophomore guard scored 31 points in a variety of ways. He set the tone early with nine first-quarter points for Sidney (14-4, 11-1 GWOC).
“The last game we came out thinking we were going to win. We thought it was going to be easy for us. It wasn’t,” Gordon said of the loss to Tipp. “Everyone is coming to get us. This was a great win and we needed to bounce back.”
“They shot the ball really well the first half and that kind of hurt what we were trying to do,” Troy coach Paul Bremigan said. “Gordon is a really good player. He got more points than I hoped he’d get in the first half. … Gordon is such a good passer and scorer, he makes them go. Those other kids just feed off it.”
Junior Devan Rogers battled inside for eight points and was a force on the boards.
“We wanted to get (Devan) going a little bit. Get the ball into him,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “I liked the way he was going after the rebounds. Sometimes we struggle and stand and watch. It’s good when he is that dominant on the boards.”
Sophomore Ratez Roberts added 13 points and several blocks. And Bowser dished out a handful of assists, including those two alley-oop passes to Gordon and an off-the-backboard pass that Roberts emphatically slammed.
“In practice, if we get the option we do (practice that),” Gordon said of the Yellow Jackets’ showtime moments. “Sometimes in practice we miss them and coach doesn’t get too happy.”
There were a couple of those Friday night, too. The biggest came with 55 seconds left when Sidney’s Jace Conrad received a technical foul for hanging on the rim after missing a dunk.
“It’s a fine line of letting them go. I just don’t like when it gets real sloppy,” Willoughby said. “We let them back in the game a little bit. It’s okay if it’s not a selfish thing. But when the players start doing things that are selfish, that’s when I get a little upset with them.
“A couple of those passes off the backboard I don’t think those are selfish. But when we’re trying to steal the ball and foul instead of playing defense and keeping them in front of us, that’s a little selfish.”
Those defensive gambles in the fourth quarter – and perhaps a little gamesmanship – contributed to an extended fourth quarter. Sidney led 60-40 to start the fourth. Troy never relented in attempting to close the deficit and as a result sent Sidney to the free-throw line 21 times. Troy went to the line 17 times as the teams combined to go 26-for-38 from the line in the fourth.
Gordon, meanwhile, sat out several minutes in the fourth with the game in hand but Willoughby inserted him back into game several times to give the Yellow Jackets a sure-handed guard against Troy’s press. Troy fans took notice that Gordon stayed in the game against second-teamers and holding a big lead. Though not malicious, Troy’s Zion Taylor was called for an intentional foul as he tripped up Gordon from behind trailing on a fast break with 36 seconds left.
“The guys I had in late in the game don’t handle the ball – I don’t have a back-up point guard – so if a team is trying to press us with our second team in, I have to get Andre back in so we’re not turning the ball over,” Willoughby said. “We had a 20-point lead and we’re not making our free throws and having trouble getting the ball up court. That’s the only resort I have. I don’t have another guard to put in.”
With the win Sidney clinched a share of the American North Division. Sidney holds a three-game lead over Greenville (10-6, 8-4 GWOC) with three games to play. Sidney has league games remaining with Piqua next Friday, Butler on Feb. 14 and Greenville on Feb. 17.
Troy was led by senior Ryan McClurg’s 17 points. Junior Zach Reichelderfer added 15 points and junior Brendan Kinnel 13.
“In the second half our kids kept playing hard,” Bremigan said. “They’ve been doing that all year. Hopefully it’ll pay off with some W’s.”