SIDNEY — The Butler Aviators traveled to Sidney on Tuesday looking to earn an early-season statement win on the home floor of the defending Greater Western Ohio Conference North division champions while preserving their spotless record.
The Aviators overcame deficits of seven points twice in a hostile environment to edge the Yellow Jackets in a 58-51 win.
Coupled with Troy’s win over Tippecanoe, the win gave the Aviators (6-0, 4-0 GWOC North) a two game lead in a league race that looks to be highly competitive.
Sidney (3-3, 3-2) led for most of the contest but wasn’t able to deliver the knockout punch. Butler hung around and after falling behind 41-34 midway through the third quarter looked to be in trouble.
The Aviators instead responded with a 7-0 run to tie the score at 41-41 and then doubled up Sidney 14-7 in the final period to pull away late.
Nothing came easy for the Aviators, however.
Facing just their second true road game and a game that was hyped early, Butler came out tight. Sidney jumped out to an early 10-3 lead after an early three-pointer by Andre Gordon and five straight points by Ratez Roberts. The Aviators responded with baskets by Sutton skapik and an old-fashioned three point play by Michael Kreill to cut the lead to 10-8.
Butler took its first lead of the game with 35 seconds in the first period on a basket by Kort Justice before Gordon responded with a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Sidney a 14-12 lead.
Sidney scored first in the second quarter and moved out to a 19-14 lead, but Justice and Kreill kept the Aviators in the game. Butler tied the game at 26-26 with 1:40 to play in the half, but Sidney responded with four straight points to claim a 30-26 at the half.
Sidney appeared to have the Aviators on the ropes early in the third quarter after taking a 37-30 lead but six straight points by Justice kept the Aviators within striking distance. After tying the score at 41-41, Butler headed into the final quarter trailing 44-41 after a three by Gordon.
The Aviator defense took over from there.
A three-pointer by Ryan Wertz tied the score at 44-44 but defense was key as the Aviators took control. Kreill grabbed two steals midway through the final quarter that gave the Aviators a 50-46 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Trey Sanders got a layup off an offensive rebound with 1:40 to play to lift Butler to a 54-50 lead and then Braedon Norman and Sanders were a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line in the final 38 seconds to preserve the win.
Butler will host Tipp on Friday in another GWOC North contest. Tip time is set for 7:30 p.m.
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.