SIDNEY — Russia started its late-season hot streak with a win over Botkins. In a Division IV sectional final at Sidney on Saturday, Russia continued its hot streak with another win over the Trojans.
The hot-shooting Raiders put Botkins away by halftime in a 41-24 win, which puts the team in its second consecutive district final. Russia coach Andy Timmerman said it’s a big accomplishment for the team, which lost two starters off last year’s 21-6 team.
Saturday’s win was the sixth straight for Russia (20-5), which lost two consecutive games before its current streak. The win streak started with a 52-24 win over Botkins on Feb. 1.
“We’ve continued to get better and haven’t settled for anything,” Timmerman said. “Middle of the year, we kind of went through a slump. We were peaking eight games, 10 games in to the season and kind of went down. But we battled back, and that shows leadership. A lot of them have varsity minutes, and it shows.”
Russia will face either Newton or Tri-Village in a district final next Saturday at Troy. The Indians and Tri-Village will face off in a sectional final next Tuesday at Brookville.
Russia beat Newton by three points in overtime on Dec. 4 and lost to Tri-Village by 18 points on Jan. 22 in nonconference games.
“Whichever matchup it is, we’re excited and excited to be back at districts,” Timmerman said. “Hopefully, this is just the beginning.”
The Raiders held Botkins 6-foot-2 senior forward Sarah Bergman scoreless through the first three quarters as they built a 33-13 lead. Bergman averages about 15 points per game.
Russia was able to get through Bergman and Botkins’ other post players throughout the game for layups as well.
“Obviously Bergman is a big player for them and hard to get through,” Russia junior guard Jenna Cordonnier said. “We were trying to pull her out of the zone and tried to cut to where she wasn’t.
“… It was definitely a team effort on (defense). The guards had to put a lot of pressure on the ball so they couldn’t get it so easily to Sarah.”
Cordonnier led Russia with 16 points and shot 7 for 9 from the field. She also led the team with seven rebounds. Junior forward Laruissa Poling added eight points and brought down four rebounds.
Russia shot 15 for 34 (44.1 percent) from the field and scored 10 baskets in the paint.
“We did a good job of reading the defenses and cutting hard and making good entry passes,” Timmerman said. “That’s been a struggle for us and was more at the beginning of the year, but we’ve been doing a good job at that.”
Botkins shot 4 for 39 (10.3 percent) from the field despite getting 17 offensive rebounds in the game. The Trojans owned a 32-30 rebounding edge overall.
“When you get behind on a team like Russia, a great, disciplined team, it’s very difficult to come back,” Botkins coach Mike Maurer said. “When you’re not shooting extremely well, it’s harder. A lot of that is to Russia’s credit making it tougher for us to shoot.”
Botkins junior guard Aliya Jones hit a 3-pointer in the first minute of the game, but the team didn’t make another field goal until the 4:29 mark in the second quarter. The Raiders went on a 15-1 run during that time.
Russia took control of the game in the last two minutes of the first quarter. Ashley Scott made a basket with 1:44 left to put the Raiders up 5-3, then Cordonnier made a basket 30 seconds later.
Cameo Wilson added a basket in the paint with 38 seconds left, and Poling scored inside right before the buzzer to give Russia an 11-3 lead at the end of the first. The Raiders outscored Botkins 11-3 in the second quarter to take a 22-6 halftime lead.
Botkins was 7-6 after a loss to Fort Loramie on Jan. 18 but won eight of its last 11 games to finish the season 15-10 overall. The Trojans were 16-7 overall last year, and Maurer said it’s the first time the program has posted back-to-back seasons over .500 since 1999 and 2000.
“I couldn’t be more proud of a group of girls than these Botkins Lady Trojans,” Maurer said. “… The seniors have had double-digit wins the last three seasons, and we had only two others since 2000 before this. What they’ve accomplished and what this team has accomplished is amazing. It takes a tremendous amount of work. I just love these girls to death. Not just great basketball players, but great kids and people.”
The Trojans will lose three seniors to graduation, including Bergman, who surpassed 1,000 career points this season. Bergman, who played all season with a torn labrum, was the Shelby County Athletic League player of the year.
With the win, Russia completed a season sweep of Botkins. Aside from Feb. 1’s win, the Raiders beat the Trojans by 13 in an SCAL game on Dec. 21.