BOTKINS — Botkins lost a first team all-Shelby County Athletic League player and a couple of other key players off last season’s team. But through seven games, the Trojans have a bit better record than the same time a year ago.
Botkins beat Allen East 62-46 on Saturday to improve to 3-4 overall. The Trojans lost two of their first three games by 19 or more points but have proven more difficult to beat in the last two weeks.
Coach Brett Meyer is hoping the competitiveness and wins continue as the team progresses. Botkins is using a mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen, and Meyer said the team is beginning to mix well.
“The older guys have been leading us and being the vocal leaders and things like that, and we’ve got some younger guys stepping up and fulfilling their roles,” Meyer said. “It’s not where you start, it’s where you end. So we’re going to try to keep getting better every single day.”
The Trojans were 2-5 at this point last year. They’re are without Luke Bergman, who graduated after averaging 23 points per game.
Aside from losing a couple of other players to graduation, Botkins also lost senior guard Bryce Metz before the season started after he tore an ACL.
Botkins has been able to find consistent scoring from several players, including freshman guard Zane Paul. Paul led the team with 21 points on Saturday against Allen East and also scored 15 points in a 53-39 loss to SCAL leader Russia on Friday.
“Zane struggled a little bit early on, and we worked with his shot a little bit,” Meyer said. “He brought his arc down, and obviously it has proven some dividends for him.”
Paul scored four 3-pointers in the first half on Saturday — two of which came in the final 1:07 — to help Botkins take a 27-18 halftime lead.
The Trojans put the game away with an 18-10 scoring advantage in the third quarter. Paul hit a 3 to get Botkins going in the quarter, and freshman guard Tyler Free hit a bank-shot 3-pointer from the right wing at the buzzer.
Free then added a nothing-but-net 3 to start the fourth quarter, and Paul later added a basket during a 12-4 run by Botkins to start the fourth.
“He was hot from the outside, and that’s what we’re expecting,” Meyer said of Paul. “Tyler, same thing. If he gets his feet set and he gets a good look, he’s a pretty good shooter.
“Those guys led us in scoring, but all those other guys were able to get them in spots where they could score. That’s the team effort part of it.”
That consistent effort from every player is what Meyer said he’s most proud of through the first seven games.
“We always pride ourselves on working extremely hard no matter what the situation is,” Meyer said. “We did that tonight. We’ve got to clean up some things when it comes to the boards, but overall we came back and fought last night after a hard game against Russia.”
Junior guard Spencer Heuker added 12 points for Botkins, while sophomore Elliott Goubeaux added seven points in the second half to put Allen East away.
Botkins made 8-of-14 free-throw attempts on Saturday. Meyer said he’d like to see improvement in that area and at setting screens as the season progresses.
“I’m pleased with our improvement and how hard we’re playing,” Meyer said. “We’ve got to keep that up especially going into a tough one on Friday.”
The Trojans (2-3 in SCAL) will resume league play on Friday at Anna (6-1, 2-1 SCAL).
Logan McClure led Allen East (2-3) with 13 points.