Boys basketball: Buzzer-beater lifts Botkins over Lehman Catholic in sectional final


PIQUA — Botkins isn’t unfamiliar with low-scoring, defensive battles. Those type of games are a common occurrence in Shelby County Athletic League play.

So as possession times extended and as the number of shots falling slowed in a Division IV sectional final on Tuesday against Lehman Catholic, the Trojans didn’t get flustered.

And with a tie score, they capped off the longest possession of the evening with a game-winner.

JJ Meyer hit a 3-pointer from just left of the top of the key right before the buzzer to lift Botkins over Lehman 35-32 at Piqua’s Garbry Gymnasium. The win earns the Trojans their fourth consecutive district semifinal berth.

Lehman missed shots on two possessions with the score tied, the last of which was on a layup try by Justin Chapman with about 1:15 left. Rylyn Paul grabbed the rebound, and the Trojans went to work after taking a timeout.

Jordan Herzog penetrated and tried for a layup with about 35 seconds left but missed. Carter Pleiman, who was recently named SCAL player of the year, leapt and grabbed the rebound over three Lehman defenders to keep the possession alive.

He dribbled back out, and the Trojans ran down the clock. With under 10 seconds, Pleiman drove in and was double-teamed, then threw back to Herzog on the left wing. Herzog then threw a pass to Meyer, who hit his only shot of the game to give Botkins the victory.

“I got the situation I wanted. I saw that (Meyer’s) guy helped over on me, so I swung back around and gave it to Jordan, and Jordan found the open man,” Pleiman, who scored a game-high 14 points, said. “That’s a shot that (Meyer) takes every day. He’s in the gym, using the (shooting) gun by himself, every day, it feels like. It was a great shot by JJ.”

Botkins coach Phil Groves credited Pleiman for making the offensive rebound on Herzog’s miss.

“We wanted to make sure we took care of the ball there at the end and took the last shot if possible,” Groves said. “We subbed JJ Meyer in during that last timeout. All season long, I’ve been telling JJ, ‘You’re going to hit a big shot for us. I’ve got confidence in you.’ He stepped up and hit a big one when we needed.”

Botkins (15-9) will face SCAL rival Russia in a district semifinal on Friday in Piqua. The No. 2 seed Raiders (21-3) beat Triad 85-22 in the first sectional final on Tuesday to advance.

“Russia’s a great team. They have really good guys, really good post players,” Pleiman said. “Really good guards, really good everything. We’ve got to lock in tomorrow, lock in the day after that, in practice. We’ll have to box out, rebound, hit our shots. And we’ve got to play good man-to-man defense.”

The No. 4 seed Trojans led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter. Lehman used an 11-9 scoring edge in the second to pull within 23-18 at halftime, then scored the first five points of the third quarter to tie it.

It was a nailbiter the rest of the way as the teams traded baskets.

Turner Lachey and Donovan O’Leary each hit baskets midway through the fourth to give Lehman a 32-28 lead, but the Cavaliers never scored again.

Pleiman made a basket and later made two free throws to tie it.

“We were rolling pretty well in the first half but kind of got stagnant at the end of the second quarter, then in the second half, we had a hard time scoring with their length, with a 6-8 guy and a 6-5 guy,” Groves said.

Lachey led the squad with 13 points while O’Leary, who is 6-5, finished with 10.

Chapman, who is 6-8, was a first team all-Three Rivers Conference selection after averaging 13.7 points and 11.2 rebounds in regular season.

But the combo of Pleiman (6-5), Herzog (6-4) and Colton Pleiman (6-4) held him well under both averages on Tuesday; he finished with five points.

“They executed the scouting report well, and I’m proud of their effort,” Groves said.

Pleiman has been a four-year starter for Botkins, including during the team’s 2021 state title run. He averaged 19.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.1 steals per game in regular-season.

He’s been playing with a nagging foot injury for the last month.

“He’s a leader, and he’s our guy,” Groves said. “He calms the waters when things start to get a little shaky. Couldn’t be more proud of Carter.”

Russia was ranked No. 6 in Div. IV in the final Associated Press state poll of the season earlier this week. The Raiders beat Botkins 72-62 and 56-33 in SCAL matchups in regular season.

“Our guys are up for the challenge,” Groves said. “They’re going to work hard the next two days in practice. However the cards may fall on Friday, I know our guys are going to work hard. We look forward to the opportunity. We know Russia is a very good team, and we’re going to have to play well to win.

“… Their depth is impressive. They can run anybody out there. There are no weak spots in their lineup. They’re well-coached. They’re a great team. We’re going to have to play well to compete and to win.”

Lehman, which was the sectional’s No. 5 seed, finishes 15-9 overall. The Cavaliers will lose Chapman and senior forward David Brunner to graduation.

Russia 85, Triad 22

The Raiders pulled away quickly in a sectional final on Tuesday in Piqua.

They led 26-2 at the end of the first quarter and pushed the advantage to 48-6 at halftime to ensure the second half started with a running clock.

Felix Francis led Russia with 15 points. Hayden Quinter scored 13, Brayden Monnin scored 12 and Colby Monnin scored 12.

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