Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has dual arts degrees from Ohio State University.

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Sidney jerked defeat from the mouth of victory, squandering a spectacular third quarter run, to lose to Tippecanoe on a last second tip-in by Nolan Mader.

Sidney, OH –  This one really hurt – stung, in fact – as the third-seeded Sidney Yellow Jackets (17-4, 14-3 in MVL) stood flat-footed with 3 seconds left on the clock and watched Tipp’s Nolan Mader calmly put back an offensive rebound to win Tuesday night, 53-52.

It hurt because eight minutes earlier Sidney had held a 46-43 lead, lost that lead (their third of the night), only to get it back with 17 seconds left in the game when Devin Taborn drew a foul on a baseline drive that put him on the line with two shots, trailing 51-50.  Taborn, a sophomore, delivered on both shots to give the Yellow Jackets the lead again, at 52-51.  The Sidney fans went nuts, sure that the athletic ‘Jackets could deny Tipp on one more possession at the other end, but that wasn’t the case, and no one could believe the ending as they left moments later for the parking lot.

It’s been a Sidney team that’s played hot and cold throughout the year and their 17-4 record.  Coach John Willoughby admitted after the game Tuesday, “I don’t know…we just don’t play very well with a lead.”

They had that lead at the end of the first quarter, 15-13, and then built it to seven points midway through the second.  The ‘Jackets were quicker than Tipp, they were getting good shots from range, and hitting those shots as the Red Devils struggled to close out and defend.

Trey Werntz, Devin Taborn, and Dominick Durr all hit wide-open threes with no one near, which really got under the skin of Tipp assistant coach Andrew Gerken, who was handling the team because head coach Adam Toohey was home in bed with the flu.

“I just told them during a timeout…we’re giving up too many wide open shots,”  said Gerken.

Tipp’s 10-2 run at the end of the second quarter was punctuated by Thomas Skaggs’ block of a Sidney shot.

Point taken, apparently.  Because from the 4:22 mark of the quarter to halftime Tipp completely flipped the script on Sidney, going on a 10-2 run over the final 3:38.  Struggling to make shots for the first four minutes, they couldn’t miss in the final four.  Playing with a patched up lineup because Toohey wasn’t the only one sick, Zach Frederick scored 6 in the quarter, Gavin Garlitz had 5, Nick Robbins had 4, filling in for Ben Knostman (home with the flu), and Griffin Caldwell and Cole Coppock had 2 each.  Holding Sidney just 2 points during that 3:38, they led at the half, 33-26.

Sidney promptly came out in the third quarter and played like they had a plane to catch, outhustling Tipp on both ends, completely taking the momentum back, and went on a run of their own – 20-8 for the quarter – as Durr ignited to score 6 of his team-high 14 points.  He had help.  Darren Taborn had 5, Avante Martin had 4, and in total six different players scored to give the ‘Jackets that 46-43 lead.

Tipp was all out of sorts, failing to rotate on defense, giving Sidney back door cuts for lack of help defense.  They didn’t box out, either, giving the Jackets’ too many second-chance opportunities during their run.  And Sidney’s pressure, which they turned up about 100% coming out of the locker room, made it hard for Tipp to run offense.

But between quarters Gerken and company found a way to calm down, tie the score at 46-46, and from that point make the game a see-saw affair…both teams scoring off the other team’s defensive lapses.  Tipp had the ball with 50 seconds left in the game, but inexplicably, while trying to run their offense, senior Nolan Mader decided to take an ill-advised three pointer from the top of the key with 29 seconds on the clock.  It wasn’t close, Sidney got the ball, went down, Taborn got to the foul line with 17 seconds and hit both shots to give Sidney the 52-51 lead.

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After a timeout, Tipp had trouble getting the ball inbounds against Sidney’s pressure – and another timeout.  This time they did get it in, to Mader, who got it across the time line and gave it up to teammate Zach Frederick, who tried to get to the rim.  But his shot was denied by Darren Taborn and Avante Martin with just 3 seconds left.

Devin Taborn’s drive sent him to the line for a pair of free throws to give Sidney their last lead.

Remember John Willoughby’s words…and the observation that lapses by both teams contributed to the wild swings of momentum in the game.  Sidney took this opportunity to have one of those lapses.  No one boxed out Nolan Mader, who had trailed the play.  The ball literally fell into his hands off the miss, and he coolly put it back in with 2.9 seconds on the clock to put Tipp back ahead.  Sidney quickly called a timeout, and with 3 seconds remaining Dominick Durr did get a desperation shot at the buzzer.  But it caromed right, no good, and that’s how it ended…53-52.

Sidney players walked off in abject shock – Dominick Durr with his jersey pulled up over his head. Teammate Jaden Swiger fought back tears of frustration.

Tipp players flocked around Nolan Mader and celebrated their 13th win of the season (12-5 in MVL) and their grip on first place in the Miami Division.  But more, they played spoiler for the moment, dropping Sidney into a first-place tie for the Valley Division lead with West Carrollton.

“I’m just so proud of how our kids battled,”  said Gerken later.  “Really, really proud,  We went into the locker room and called coach Toohey at home in bed to tell him about it. We played poorly in the first quarter…didn’t box out well and gave them too many second chance points.  Then we came back with that run in the second…took some better shots and hit those shots.  They just wanted it more than we did in the third, but I was really proud of our guys for the way they weathered the storm.  They never quit, and did the key things when they were needed to win the game.”

John Willoughby grimaces over the last-second stickback that gave Tipp the lead….

Nolan Mader went from being the goat for taking a bad three pointer at an ill-advised time…to be the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T.) when fate smiled on him in the final moments of the game.

“I don’t know why, but I was just feeling it when I took the three-pointer,”  he said afterwards, shaking his head.  “I should have taken it to the rim, but I thought I had some space to shoot, and I thought if I missed there would be some time for us to get a rebound.  It was the heat of the moment…I thought I had ice in my veins.

“We’ve had trouble all year boxing out, but at the end it was one of the things that we said we had to do to have a chance.  We did it, and they didn’t do it.  Zach almost made it, but it fell right in my hands and I just laid it up.”

If Adam Toohey and Ben Knostman were home sick, and two or three on the Tipp bench were less than sparkling, imagine how John Willoughby must have felt.

“Crazy year, and a long season,”  he said quietly.  “We played well at the beginning of the year, and now we’ve got to get it together for Friday (Greenville).  For some reason we can’t play with a lead.  We built that lead in the second quarter and just let it go…like that.  We took poor shots, didn’t box out, turnovers, and I don’t know if we thought the game was over, or what.  But we quit doing the things that got us the lead.

…while Dominick Durr couldn’t bear to watch as he left the court.

“We went back to individual play.  It’s so disappointing.  We had a mixup at the end, two guards switched assignments on #33 (Frederick), we had two guys on him and no one on #13 (Mader) to box out.  We got caught standing, watching.  The focus, and little things like that just drive you nuts.”

Nolan Mader not only redeemed himself, he led Tipp in scoring with 16 points.  Garlitz had 12, Griffin Caldwell had 9, and Zach Frederick had 6.

For Sidney, Dominick Durr had perhaps his most solid game of the season, with 14 points, while Trey Werntz had 8, Avante Martin and Jaden Swiger had 6 each, and the Taborn brothers, Daren and Devin finished with 5 each.

You could have cut the gloom with a knife;  or you could have gotten on Tipp’s bus for the trip home with all those people sick with the flu.  Given the way it ended…it pretty much felt the same to John Willoughby and the Yellow Jackets.

Coverage of the MVL on Press Pros is proudly sponsored by Olde English Outfitters, in Tipp City.

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