VANDALIA — When Jayden Priddy-Powell wanted to get serious at playing basketball, he knew his father could help. He didn’t know how much a small village school in Botkins could.
The mix of the Powells and Botkins has made the school’s program a serious Division IV contender.
Priddy-Powell scored 16 points to help the Trojans beat Cedarville 42-40 on Friday at Vandalia-Butler’s Student Activity Center, which earned the program its first regional title and state berth since 1994.
Priddy-Powell scored seven points in the first quarter to help the squad build an early lead and scored the rest of his points in the second half despite being in foul trouble. He sat on the bench with four fouls for the first half of the fourth quarter and played the rest of the way.
“I knew I had to play easy there,” Priddy-Powell said. “If I got another, I’m done for. Coach just told me to not gamble, just get in there and play honest defense. So I just trusted them, and I stayed in the game.”
Botkins (25-3) will face Richmond Heights in a Div. IV state semifinal at 11 a.m. this Friday at University of Dayton Arena. Richmond Heights (17-4) beat Warren JFK 67-50 in a regional final on Friday in Akron.
Priddy-Powell started his prep career at Lima Perry under the guidance of his father Sean Powell, who was a junior varsity coach. When Powell, a former Lima Shawnee star, left to take over as Botkins’ coach in 2018, Priddy-Powell followed.
It wasn’t the first time he has changed schools.
“I’ve been all around,” Priddy-Powell said. “I was born in Lima, moved to Cincinnati with my mom. Wanted to take basketball serious, so I came back with my dad. He trained me every day. I’ve just been under his wing the whole time.”
It was a learning experience for both in joining with Botkins, as it was Powell’s first head coaching position. The Trojans went 11-12 in 2018-19 and were knocked out in the first round of the tournament, then lost three of their last five in an 18-7 campaign last season, including a district semifinal loss to Fort Loramie.
Everything has come together for the squad this season. Aside from a mid-season slump in which the squad lost three of five games, they’re undefeated.
“We’ve been working for this,” Priddy-Powell said. “We’ve been in the weight room every summer. Most of the players committed to it, and Coach told us when we were seniors, we’ll be competing in the state finals. We just trusted him, put work in every summer and every day in practice. I guess it all paid off.”
Powell said he’s happy the work the squad has put in over the last three years has resulted in a state berth.
“I’m thinking about when I first started this job the coaching staff believing in me, the community believing in me,” Powell said. “These kids from day one have been busting their tail for me. I told them day one if they stay, we would be champions.
“So far, we’ve got a league championship, a district championship, a sectional championship, now a regional. I don’t see why we can’t finish it all.”
The Trojans’ depth was too much for Cedarville to overcome. Priddy-Powell and fellow senior guards Zane Paul and Denton Homan led a stellar defensive effort that was backed by strong rebounding and post play from junior Jacob Pleiman and sophomore Carter Pleiman.
Those starters along with bench players Jameson Meyer and Dylan Topp helped contain the Indians, which averaged 63.2 points per game.
A big key for Botkins was containing Cedarville senior guard Trent Koning. He finished with 14 points, seven of which came at the free-throw line.
Koning made three field goals on Friday after having made six in a 22-point performance in a regional semifinal win over Tri-Village and having made 12 in a 30-point performance in a 50-48 win over Jackson Center in a district final.
“Koning has played lights-out in this tournament,” Powell said. “… Zane Paul, Jayden Priddy-Powell and Denton Homan all did a great job of trying to box him in and contain him.”
The Trojans also held Cedarville senior guard Isaiah Ramey to eight points, all of which came in the third quarter. He averaged 15.5 points per game.
“We were ready for this moment,” Powell said. “We’re battle-tested, and we knew going in that we had a good opportunity to slow both those guys down. Offensively on our side, we’re going to gang score. We thought if we could slow down their two, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with us.”
Friday’s game is one of nine games the Trojans have played in decided by single-digit margins, six of which have been by four points or less.
Priddy-Powell said those close games, a loaded Shelby County Athletic League schedule and nonconference games against the likes of Antwerp have prepared the squad to play for a state title next weekend.
“I believe in my team,” Priddy-Powell said. “We can do anything. I believe in them.”
Botkins led the whole way but never had an advantage greater than six points.
The teams exchanged baskets early before Botkins went on a 7-2 run to take a 13-6 lead. Priddy-Powell scored five points during the run.
“He came out early and was aggressive, which seniors should be to make sure we settle in,” Powell said. “I think his spurt at the beginning of the game, we rode that all the way to the end.”
Cedarville’s Hayden Hanson hit a buzzer-beater 3-pointer to cut the gap to 13-9 before the end of the first, then Peyton Herron hit a 3 to open the second and cut the gap to one point.
After the teams traded baskets, Meyer hit a 3 from the top of the key with 3:42 left to push the Trojans’ lead to 18-14, and Jacob Pleiman added a basket before the end of the quarter to push the advantage to six points.
Cedarville trimmed the lead to 29-26 by the end of the third quarter, but the Trojans started the fourth with a 4-1 run to take a six-point lead.
Cedarville pulled within 40-37 after Koning made a pair of free throws with nine seconds left, but Carter Pleiman hit two foul shots shortly after to increase the lead to five.
Koning made an uncontested 3 at the buzzer to narrow the final score.
Carter Pleiman scored six points and hit 4-of-4 free-throw attempts in the final minute. The Trojans shot 14-of-19 from the line on the night.
“We’ve struggled all season at the free-throw line,” Powell said. “For them to come in and stroke it at the end when it counts, it means a lot.
“… Carter Pleiman’s only a sophomore, but we don’t look at it that way and don’t treat him that way. He’s been a phenomenal player for us this year, and we expect him to step up there and lead.”
Jacob Pleiman scored seven points while Paul finished with six.
Cedarville, which hadn’t advanced to regionals since 2005, finishes 24-2 overall.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.