Defending Division IV state champion Botkins battles heavyweight Jackson Center on Friday night to open Shelby County Athletic League boys hoops action. The winner gets first weekend bragging rights, inflicts an early loss on a league title contender, and grabs a quick, but possibly short-lived, lead in the SCAL standings.

The race will heat up fast as Botkins travels to Anna and Jackson Center hosts Fort Loramie on Friday, Dec. 3. Expect Russia to be in the thick of the title chase as well.

In seven of eight quarters last year during head-to-head battles, Botkins (27-3) and Jackson Center (19-7) scored the same number of points and were only a couple field goals apart over this 56-minute span. So do not expect one of the two clubs to pull away like the Fort Loramie girls were able to do on Tuesday during the opening night of SCAL girls action. They built a late 16-4 run to break open a nip and tuck 32-29 contest and down a tall and talented Russia club, 48-37.

The Trojans-Tigers tussle will be covered by at 7 p.m. WMVR, 105.5 TAM FM, will simulcast. Tip-off is at 7:30 before an anticipated large crowd at the Botkins gymnasium. Jack Kramer and Chuck McBee describe the play-by-play and color.

“Yes, it’s the very beginning of the boys high school hoops campaign. But the stakes are already high. This game tonight can mean so much a couple months from now,” said McBee.

“Points will be at a premium. Furthermore, the defenses of both teams, which were air-tight and the best in the county a year ago, are ahead of the offenses right now in November.”

Botkins and Anna tied for the 2020-2021 SCAL championship with marks of 10-2. Jackson Center finished third at 8-4, two games behind the Trojans who topped the Tigers twice. If the Tigers had managed to win the first or second meeting with Botkins, the two clubs’ league records would have matched.

The bottom line: The SCAL scraps on the hardwood in November are as meaningful as those in February. And results of those head-to-head confrontations between county Div. IV programs can also be “tie-breakers” for seeding position in the minds of coaches as they cast their votes in the Piqua sectional tournament draw.

Speaking of coaches, the Botkins boys mentor is new to the position, but not new to Botkins. Phil Groves compiled a 43-29 mark during three years as the Trojans’ girls coach. Before then, he served seven seasons as an assistant coach in the boys program, working closely with longtime head coach Brett Meyer.

The opportunity for Groves to move over to the boys program developed when Sean Powell, three-year Botkins head coach and a resident of Lima, left the Botkins job for the Lima Bath hoops position about a month after guiding the Trojans to the state title last March.

The Trojans bring back brothers Jacob and Carter Pleiman, plus key performers Jameson Meyer and Dylan Topp, who both logged plenty of minutes off the bench. Botkins upended powerhouse Richmond Heights, 44-40, in the state semifinal, and buried second-ranked Columbus Grove, 60-44, in the state final. The Botkins boys state crown was the first in program history.

Having spent 23 years and two coaching stints at Jackson Center, Scott Elchert is the mentor of the Tigers program. He is the dean of SCAL boys coaches for his years of service.

Last year’s leading scorer for the Tigers, 6-5 post player Aiden Reichert, graduated in the spring. The four returning starters are Camdyn Reese, Carson Regula, Jace Mullenhour, and Nolan Fark.

Jackson Center was nipped by Cedarville in the district finals last March, 50-48. The Tigers advanced to the regional finals in March 2020 when the health crisis stopped tournament play.

Both Elchert and Groves are featured in this evening’s ScoresBroadcast pre-game segment.
It’s a critical, 1st weekend contest in SCAL boys basketball