VANDALIA — Sean Powell’s first game as Botkins’ coach two seasons ago went about as poorly as can be feared. Reigning Shelby County Athletic League co-champion Anna took a 12-point lead by halftime and ran away in the second half to a 26-point win.
“We fought. It was ugly,” Powell said. “… Since then, we’ve grown. I’ve grown.”
The Trojans have grown into one of Shelby County’s best.
Botkins crushed Fayetteville-Perry 50-32 in a Division IV district final on Saturday at Vandalia-Butler’s Student Activity Center to earn its first district championship and regional berth since 2001.
“I was nervous,” Powell said. “It’s weird. As a player, I never got nervous. As a coach, my stomach was in knots. I wanted it so much for my kids.”
The Trojans advance to face Newark Catholic (11-12) in a D-IV regional semifinal on Tuesday at Vandalia-Butler. The Green Wave beat Sugar Grove Berne Union 72-46 in a district final on Friday to advance.
Botkins (23-3) is the only Div. IV Shelby County school to win a district title this year; Jackson Center lost to Cedarville 50-48 in a third district final on Saturday in Vandalia. Anna, which earned a share of the SCAL title this year along with Botkins, edged Jamestown Greeneview on Friday to earn a D-III district title.
“Our conference is a tough defensive conference,” Powell said. “If you can’t sit down and defend in the half court, you don’t have a chance. We want to take that DNA and just bring it to the tournament.
“When we face a team that’s not from our conference, they may not see that type of physicality. So we try to use that to our advantage.”
Botkins did that against the Rockets on Saturday.
Fayetteville-Perry’s defensive pressure slowed the Trojans early, but Zane Paul and Jameson Meyer hit late 3-pointers in the first quarter to help the squad take a 10-4 lead heading into the second.
The Trojans took over in the second quarter. Perry struggled all game to find shots in the paint and resorted to firing up 3’s in the second quarter. They didn’t make any 3’s — or any shot.
Jacob Pleiman scored seven points in the second to help lead a 9-0 advantage that pushed the score to 19-4 at halftime.
Pleiman, a 6-foot-6 junior forward, scored 20 points. He also had several blocks, including two in the first half of the first quarter.
Both teams’ offenses improve in the second half. Fayetteville-Perry started hitting 3’s and pulled as close as 13 points but never seriously threatened.
Pleiman scored seven points in the third to help lead a 22-15 scoring edge. The Rockets used a 14-9 scoring edge in the fourth to trim the final gap a bit.
“Getting down double digits early, no one in our locker room thought they were going to give up,” Powell said. “At halftime, we discussed some things we needed to do in the second half. We let off their shooters a little bit to protect fouls down the stretch. We paid for it a little. They hit some shots there early in the third quarter, fought back.”
Meyer and Paul each finished with nine points. William Cornett led Fayetteville-Perry with 13 points, all of which came in the second half.