Sidney overcame the loss of a key player and made enough plays down the stretch to complete a season sweep of the Red Devils.
Sidney — The Tippecanoe Red Devils have been members of the Greater Western Ohio Conference for two short years.
In that brief period of time, the Red Devils matchups with the Sidney Yellow Jackets have been must-see basketball.
Last season, Sidney won by 7 at home, and Tipp registered a late season upset three days after the Jackets stunned Trotwood.
Early this season, the Jackets held off the Red Devils 68-64, and did it again Tuesday night, holding on for a 79-74 win in a highly entertaining game before a decent Tuesday night crowd at Sidney High School.
“We started the game off great,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. ‘Ratez was dominating, but then he went down and that took some wind out of our sails. But Keith Lee came in and played well, Ryan Heins got some loose balls for us, and Andre (Gordon) was tremendous. “
“Starting off down 8-0 was tough,” said Tipp coach Adam Toohey. “Our guys never quit. We talked in the locker room about getting a more consistent start, but our effort was there. Our focus was there.”
Three-pointers by Gordon and Darren Taborn got the Jackets off to a 6-0 lead, but Sidney suffered a big blow just over two minutes into the game.
Ratez Roberts, a junior who averages over 12 points and 9 rebounds a game, went down in a heap after spraining his right ankle. He was assisted from the floor and spent the remainder of the game on the bench with an ice bag on his foot.
Tipp didn’t score for the first four minutes and trailed 17-9 after 8 minutes. The Red Devils caught fire in the second eight minutes, however.
Caiden Smith, the Red Devils leading scorer at 19 points a game, was scoreless through the first period. He scored 10 points in the second quarter as the Red Devils narrowed the deficit to 36-34 at the break.
As usual, Andre Gordon led the Jackets in the first half. The junior, who entered the game averaging a GWOC high 25.6 points a game, hit three triples in the first half on his way to a team high 16 points. As a team, Sidney hit seven threes in th first half, but led by just two because of a 6 for 17 performance inside the arc.
Cade Gingrich opened the third quarter with a basket to draw Tipp even for the first time, but things quickly went downhill after that. Gordon scored twice, Taborn added a pair of baskets, and 6-2,285 pound Devan Rogers scored 7 points as the Jackets went on a 17-3 run.
“We knew they would come out strong after we beat them in their house,” said Rogers. “We just wanted to come out and attack from the start.
“Losing Ratez was a big blow, but our guys knew that once he went down they had to step up. It was a good team win for us.”
The Red Devils rallied in the fourth, cutting the margin to three in the final minute. Tyler Skaggs scored 12 points in the quarter for the Red Devils, while Josh Wildermuth added 7 and Ben Sauls tossed in 6.
Sidney met the challenge, however. Gordon scored 9 in the final quarter, including 6 of 6 from the line, and Taborn added 9 of his own as he nearly quadrupled his scoring average on the season. The Jackets left the door open by missing 6 free throws in the final period but made just enough to hang on for it’s 11th win of the season.
As you might imagine, there were lots of numbers. Gordon had a game high 29 for Sidney, while Taborn, averaging 4.7 points per game, finished with 18 and Rogers finished with 14.
Gingerich, Smith and Skaggs all finished with 15 for the Red Devils, while Josh Wildermuth added 13. Tipp almost pulled out the win despite playing without senior Dan Hagen. The Red Devil leader in made three pointers missed the game with the flu.
“We feel like we have a lot of players who can score on any given night,” Toohey explained. “We never know whose night it is going to be, but they don’t care. The points belong to the team, not the player. We had 74 tonight, and that’s a good number to have. At the same time, you have to hold the other guys to less than that. We need to work a little more on the defensive end.”
Both teams shot the ball well. Tipp was 53% from the floor, 33% from the arc, and 62% at the line. Sidney also shot 53% from the field, but was 42% from the arc and 64% from the line. Sidney out-rebounded the Red Devils 27-21 and had 12 turnovers to 14 for Tipp..
Toohey, in his first year as the Tippecanoe coach, is pleased with the progress his now 10-7 team has made.
“We have a lot of seniors, and they have really bought in to what we want to do. They are starting to understand who they are and what they can do. This is a tough one tonight, but their guys made some tough shots. We said we wanted their guys to have to make shots, and all their dudes did. Sidney is a very good team, very athletic. We will put his behind us and move on. We just said that the most important game of the season is Friday against Piqua, because it’s the next one.”
Sidney was coming off its worst loss of the season, an 87-53 loss to Trotwood last Friday. Willoughby said he was not concerned that the Jackets would bounce back.
“No, not at all,” he said, shaking his head. “We are pretty good about putting things behind us. We have good leaders here who bring the energy for us when we need it. We changed our practice a little bit, and now we celebrate defensive stops and rebounds in practice. That first quarter tonight was the best we have played offense and defense together all season.
“We are playing better than we were early in the season,” the veteran coach went on. “We seem to be in better shape. We have a better understanding of where we need to be and where we need to go with the ball. Early on, a lot of us were “its my turn’ or ‘lets see what I can do here.” And we were young. We had two or three players that had very little varsity experience. Those players have gained experience, and it will make us a better team the rest of the season.”