The Northmont Thunderbolts are searching for that signature win. And coming into Tuesday’s game with state-ranked Sidney, it was easy to write off the Thunderbolts against the high flying Yellow Jackets.
Yes, Sidney won 72-68 after a back-and-fourth, hard-fought fourth quarter. But despite falling the T-Bolts perhaps put their stamp on the rest of this season.
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Northmont (4-8) led Sidney (10-1) with 1:32 left in the fourth quarter, clutching to a 66-65 advantage on Prophet Johnson’s basket. But the more experienced Yellow Jackets scored the next five points on a pair of Andre Gordon free throws and a basket and free throw from Lathan Jones, just enough to help Sidney hold on.
“Other than these 18 guys standing in this locker room there aren’t many people who believe this can happen,” Northmont coach Shane Kincer said of his pregame pep talk. “I told them they’re a good basketball team and they’ve just been on the wrong end of it after games. We’re building to get that one signature win to get us over the top.”
They nearly got it Tuesday.
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Sidney, No. 10 in this week’s state poll in the Division I rankings, sprinted to a 10-0 lead, highlighted by Ratez Roberts’ dunk 30 seconds into the game. The T-Bolts responded with seven different players scoring over the next 5:11 as Northmont led 16-11 after the first quarter.
Northmont, which led 24-23 at halftime, traded the lead with Sidney five times in the third quarter. That trend continued deep into the fourth quarter, too.
The lead changed eight times, the final time with Gordon’s free throws with 1:27 remaining for the 67-66 lead. Gordon scored 20 of his game-high 22 points in the second half.
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“Andre is a great player. We tried to keep the ball out of his hands as much as we could,” Kincer said. “We limited to two points in the first half. That probably doesn’t happen very often. The second half he went on a little run.”
Northmont’s Jordan Smith pulled the T-Bolts within 70-68 with 28 seconds remaining. Gordon’s reverse layup with 14 seconds capped the scoring. Northmont got off about four shots on its final possession, including three around the rim, but couldn’t get one to go before the buzzer.
“I told the team in the locker room after the game that I thought we played one of the top two teams in the Dayton area and we went toe-to-toe with them,” Kincer said. “If you can do that with Sidney you should be able to compete with every team left on our schedule. … I think this could be a big building block for the rest of the season.”
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Johnson led Northmont with 16 points and Justin Golson added 13. Patrick Ivory and Jordan Smith both finished with nine as 10 different players scored.
“Prophet is a great player. He does it all,” Kincer said. “He does a good job sharing the basketball and helping set up other scorers. Justin Golson played outstanding. He was given the task of guarding Andre and still scored 13 points after chasing a kid going to Virginia Tech. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of guts.”
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Gordon’s 22 points included a 12-for-12 effort from the free-throw line. Roberts scored 12 points and Darren Taborn 10 for Sidney.
“By the records, it’s so hard to go by the records anymore,” Sidney coach John Willoughby said, praising Northmont’s effort. “Northmont is athletic. They just killed us on the boards. If we don’t have the effort it doesn’t matter what records mean. It was probably tougher than it should have been but give credit to Northmont.”
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