SIDNEY — Botkins saw Houston’s marked improvement in the teams’ second Shelby County Athletic League meeting. After beating the Wildcats by nearly 20 points in December, Botkins didn’t pull away until the second half in a 14-point win on Jan. 23.
The Trojans were ready for another matchup on Thursday and cruised to a big sectional final victory. Botkins pulled away in the third quarter and beat Houston 45-28 to advance to a Division IV district semifinal on Monday against No. 2 seed Mechanicsburg.
“We wanted to go more zone today,” Botkins coach Phil Groves said. “The second time we played Houston, we noticed they struggled attacking our matchup. So we wanted to use that more tonight than we did in the first two games, and it worked out well for us.”
It was the first tournament game for the No. 3 seed Trojans (16-7), which will try to keep the run going against Mechanicsburg. The Ohio Heritage Conference champion Indians (21-2) blasted Mississinawa Valley in Thursday’s second sectional final.
“They have some prolific guards and really get after it defensively,” Groves said. “It’ll be a challenge for us Monday night. We’re going to have to play better on Monday than we did tonight. But I think we have a lot of things offensively we can shore up to give us a chance.”
Houston, the sectional’s No. 9 seed, finishes 7-17 overall. The squad started the season 0-10 but went .500 in its last 14 games.
Houston coach Brad Allen is optimistic for the squad’s future. The team has no seniors and should return its entire roster, including junior Amber Stangel and sophomore Megan Maier, who were all-SCAL honorable mention selections.
“It was a great finish,” Allen said. “I was hoping we could get a little better play tonight, but Phil did a great job getting his girls ready for us.”
Botkins finished the second quarter on a 7-4 run to push its lead to 20-11 by halftime and started the third with an 11-2 run to put it away. The Trojans pushed their lead to 36-16 by the end of the third.
Houston upset No. 4 Lehman Catholic 53-50 in a sectional opener on Saturday but couldn’t keep up its hot offense against Botkins. The Wildcats struggled to even pass at times against Botkins’ traps and frequently lost control of the ball.
“We put in some new stuff out of our zone this week (in practice), trapping the first pass and trapping the corners and trapping as they came across half court,” Groves said. “I think we had a good balance keeping them off guard the whole game defensively.
“Offensively, we passed the ball better in the second half and got some open shots and capitalized. The girls played really well tonight, and I’m proud of them. Hat’s off to Brad and his girls. They played hard.”
Houston finished with a 12-9 scoring edge in the fourth but never pulled closer than 14.
“We just dug ourselves too big a hole to get out of,” Allen said. “I think we made a nice little charge and got some momentum back on our side, but we just couldn’t close it to get it to the point where we could get the win.
“… I thought we had some great practices the last few days but we our execution wasn’t where it needed to be and theirs was. We got beat on the offensive rebounds and they got some opportunities. We have to minimize those, especially when it’s this far along in the season and the tournament.”
The teams played close in the first quarter until the last couple of minutes. Boston Paul hit a 3-pointer with 2:49 left to give the Trojans a 9-4 lead and Carmen Heuker scored before the end of the quarter to push the lead to 11-4.
The teams traded baskets to a 13-7 score before Botkins extended its lead before halftime. Makenna Maurer hit a basket with 2:31 left, then after Maier split a pair of free throws for the Wildcats, Paul scored on a drive with 1:11 left to put the Trojans ahead 17-8.
Rylie Voisard made a 3 for Houston with about 30 seconds left but Kinley Topp hit a 3 from the left corner for Botkins to put the squad ahead by nine points at halftime.
Paul led Botkins with 14 points while Heuker scored 12 and Maurer scored seven.
Stangel led the Wildcats with nine points while Maier scored seven.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.