In the battle of two unbeatens, something has to give at the “Elk Elite Showcase” at Centerville High School on Sunday afternoon.
These days, the defending state champion Division IV Botkins boys are displaying a suffocating defense that has made it difficult for opposing teams to even get a “peek” at the basket. Botkins’ defensive yield is a paltry 32 points every 32 minutes.
Meanwhile, D-III Springfield Shawnee, the Trojans’ foe on Sunday, is firing home the 3-point shots at “peak” performance — 20 for 39, over 50 percent, in three of its four games. Shawnee returned multiple good scorers from its regional final club last March.
ScoresBroadcast.com will cover covers the big Botkins (5-0) vs. Shawnee (4-0) match-up on Sunday at 12 p.m. Jack Kramer and Chuck McBee are on the call. WMVR, 105.5 TAM-FM, simulcasts at noon. Tip-off is set for 12:30.
The contest kicks off the four-game Centerville HS hoops event. Cincinnati St. Xavier and Toledo St. Francis, a couple Division I powerhouses, meet following the Botkins-Shawnee clash.
Later in the day, the highly-touted Centerville girls tangle with Ryle High School from Kentucky. The Centerville boys, who won the D-I state crown last March and feature outstanding guard and Indiana commit Gabe Cupps, take on Vision Academy out of New York in the evening game.
A spokesman for the Centerville athletic department said the school was “extremely pleased to attract a high caliber, small school program like Botkins” to the showcase opener.
However, the defending state champs, 3-0 in Shelby County Athletic League action, can’t look past tonight’s important SCAL tilt versus Houston. Russia, undefeated in the league at 3-0 and 4-0 overall, hosts Jackson Center before an expected standing-room-only crowd on homecoming night at the Raiders gym. Fort Loramie, idle on Friday, squares off with loaded Versailles on Saturday.
Anna is at Fairlawn this evening in a contest also covered by ScoresBroadcast and WMVR at 7 p.m.
Like Botkins, Shawnee has a league game on Friday night. The Braves travel to London in the Central Buckeye Conference.
For sure, both head coaches, Phil Groves of Botkins and veteran Chris McGuire at Shawnee, are playing these games one-at-a-time. Being successful in your conference is objective number one.
Meanwhile, the “inter-league” confrontations with highly regarded opponents can go a long way to enhancing your own club’s strength and rate of improvement. At the same time, such matchups can hold significant value at the tournament draw.
Botkins, 26-3 last season, earned the top seed at February’s D-IV Piqua sectional and made it pay off, winning sectional, district and regional titles in route to the school’s first-ever state crown in boys hoops.
Shawnee, 17-5 in 2020-21, acquired the top seed in the D-III southwest district’s north open draw and benefited as well. The Braves’ lengthy tourney run included a tight victory over Versailles in a regional semifinal before a loss to Cincinnati Taft in the region final. Taft had edged out Anna in overtime in the other semi-final.
Coach McGuire’s unit has three starters and two key bench players back from last season’s quality club. Zion Crowe, a 6-3 junior, is averaging 17 points per outing; RJ Griffin, also a 6-3 junior, is at 15, and Patrick Fultz, a six-foot senior guard, 14. Crowe pulls down seven boards per game; the other two, five rebounds each. Crowe scored 13 points per game a year ago; Griffin and Fultz, nine.
The Braves are shooting a sizzling 55% from the floor and commit only eight turnovers per contest. Shawnee is averaging 26 points per game more than Botkins is giving up.
So, which side of the ball gets the W on Sunday? The better O or the better D?
Botkins has shown a lot of both. The team averages almost seven blocked shots per game, and 6-6 Jacob Pleiman swats away five of them. The team records another five steals per contest. Botkins opponents have been fortunate to tally eight points per quarter.
On offense, Jacob and brother Carter Pleiman, who stands 6-5, have combined for an average of close to 30 points per game. In five outings, five of every six Botkins baskets have been triggered by assists from teammates.
Guard Jameson Meyer hoisted in three triples versus Fort Loramie on Tuesday. Starter Dylan Topp at 6-4 specialized in strong defensive play and chipped in with two field goals.
Coach Groves continues to bring along his subs and role players. Reserve senior Jack Dietz canned a fourth quarter three-ball on Tuesday. Back-up sophomore Jordan Herzog drove hard to the rim for a basket in the third period.
Coaches are starting to build “longer benches” right now for what they hope will be successful extended seasons for their teams well into February, and even March.
The Botkins boys know all about that. They got to play 29 times last year. There was nothing better than winning the last one.