Greg Billing
Greg Billing

Greg Billing began covering high school, college and professional sports in the Miami Valley in 1988 when he was a junior at Miami East High School. The Wright State University graduate has worked at the Troy Daily News (1996-1997), Springfield News-Sun (1997-2001) and the Dayton Daily News (2001-2016). He was inducted into the Dayton Auto Racing Fan Club's (DARF) Hall of Fame in 2015 for his auto racing coverage and has also earned numerous Associated Press awards for stories, headline writing and special sports sections. Greg lives in West Milton with his wife and two daughters. When not covering events, he and his wife are cheering for the girls as they play a variety of sports for the Milton-Union Bulldogs.

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Sidney gave Trotwood all it could handle for just over 27 minutes, but the Rams’ put the game away with a game-ending 26-7 run.

Sidney – The Sidney Yellow Jackets have been tough to catch at home with nine of their first 13 games on the road.

Sidney’s fifth home game – a clash with the Trotwood-Madison Rams, ranked No. 1 in the Division II state poll – packed the bleachers with a standing room only crowd that included an energetic student section.

The Yellow Jackets gave them plenty to stand up and cheer about through the first 27 minutes of the game. It was the final five that sent a hush over the crowd.

Sidney’s Andre Gordon sliced through the lane, weaving around a defender at the basket for a layup to pull the Yellow Jackets to 64-62 with 5:15 left in the fourth quarter. Though they gave it a good run, that was as close as the Yellow Jackets got the rest of the way.

Trotwood’s track meet in high tops offense scored the next 10 points and sprinted to a game-ending 26-7 run. The scoring blitz gave Trotwood a 90-69 victory in a Greater Western Ohio Conference crossover game Friday night.

“For a long while we did a good job of looking diagonal, throwing the ball up the court, getting some easy baskets,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said. “I think we did that for about three and a half quarters and, I don’t know, all of a sudden we started rushing again. They take advantage of it quick.”

Trotwood entered the game averaging 100.9 points. The Rams’ season high came in a 138-48 win against Greenville on Jan. 8. They’ve surpassed 100 points five times this season. Holding the Runnin’ Rams under the century mark is little consolation for a Yellow Jackets team that early on looked like they might run away with this one.

Sidney led all but about 14 seconds of the first half, including a 28-17 lead after the first quarter. Darren Taborn dropped in 15 of his team- and season-high 23 points in the first quarter. In one quarter his 15 points surpassed his single-game high, which was 13 points against Greenville.

Sidney’s Ratez Roberts (2) battles Trotwood’s Justin Stephens (15) for a rebound.

Sidney led 41-33 with 58 seconds left before the half. But just like it can at any point, the Rams starting running. Amari Davis scored seven of Trotwood’s final 11 points to cap an 11-2 run and give the Rams a 44-43 lead at halftime.

Trotwood’s lead reached double digits at 56-45 midway through the third quarter, but Sidney rallied with two free throws from Tabor and baskets each from Ratez Roberts and Gordon. The lead never went higher than four points the first 2:45 of the fourth quarter.

But once it did there was no slowing Trotwood’s instant offense.

“It stems from our defense. Offensively all year we’ve been fine,” Trotwood coach Rocky Rockhold said. “We know we can score. But until we get our defense to be consistent we’re going to have games like that where it’s nip and tuck. I felt like defensively we got them to make mistakes. We didn’t give up second shots. We have to get back to doing that. That’s what we didn’t do against Pickerington Central. I felt like tonight we took some pride in guarding and getting after it, especially in that fourth quarter.”

Sidney – perhaps feeling the need to match Trotwood’s tempo – committed a few turnovers that played into the Rams’ favor.

“I thought for the most part we did the right things,” Willoughby said. “I thought we handled the press – not as well as we can – but for the most part I thought we did a good job and got easy baskets. But they don’t mind that. They want to keep it going. You get a false sense of security when you break it a few times. Then you think you can do something else and you don’t stick with what you should be doing.”

After Taborn’s 23 points, Roberts followed with 14 and Gordon 10.

Mine! Sidney’s Josiah Hudgins keeps a firm grip on the basketball against a pair of Rams defenders.

“Darren did a great job of finding the open spot. He did a fantastic job,” Willoughby said.

“Ratez, without Ratez in there we would be so lost. I thought Keith (Lee) did what he’s supposed to do. Josiah (Hudgins) played all right. Our subs came in and played well.”

Gordon got his teammates involved early with precision passing. That was fine with the Rams. But once Gordon started looking to score more, Trotwood turned up the pressure.

“That kid is a phenomenal player. And he’s a great kid,” Rockhold said. “We love competing against him. Our game plan coming in was to allow him an opportunity to pass the ball. If he ends up with 25 assists and we lose so be it. But you can’t let him get 25 points and 10 assists. We went with what we call Hot, where we double him as soon as he touches it. I thought it was effective.”

Davis scored 36 points, coming seven points shy of tying his season high. He entered the game ranked No. 2 in the GWOC with 27.7 points per game. Carl Blanton added 18 points, Keontae Huguely 14 and Justin Stephens 10. The Rams played without Malachi Mathews, their third-leading scorer, who missed the game due to illness.http://www.davearbogast.com/

In all, Trotwood has six players averaging 9.0 points or more.

“I thought our kids played well. I thought we played hard,” Willoughby said. “I give all the credit to Trotwood.”

The loss dropped Sidney to 8-2 and into a tie with Butler in the GWOC American North. Trotwood (8-0) remained one game ahead of Fairborn in the American South.

Sidney’s Andre Gordon received plenty of attention from Trotwood’s defense.

The Rams have reached the state final four three times since 2014, including last season’s championship game appearance. The Rams are primed to make another run.

“Even though we’re not deep, we’re really hard on our conditioning,” Rockhold said. “I’m biased but I’ll say our conditioning is second to none physically. We prepare to play that way. … I really felt like that run late, I felt like we wore them out. They were tired.”

The Yellow Jackets are about to get a pretty good workout, too. A pair of make-up games has Sidney playing seven games in 12 days.

“It’s been real good so far. We’ve played some really good teams at our place this year and people are coming out to watch.”

Sidney’s Keith Lee goes up for two of his four points against Trotwood.

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