The Botkins Trojans have won a lot of meaningful games this year. Twenty-five victories in all and a dozen straight.
Coach Sean Powell’s club continued to bolster its highly competitive style in the district and regional tournaments, and eventually knocked out one-loss Cedarville in a regional final while limiting its star performer Trent Koning to two baskets for nearly 32 minutes.
The grinding Shelby County Athletic League schedule and a regular season slate that included strong Division IV clubs, like Antwerp, Minster, New Bremen and Fort Recovery prepared the Trojans well for this state tourney run. Botkins topped Jackson Center and Fort Loramie a total of four times.
But, obviously, none of these wins is more important for Botkins than the next one — Friday’s Division IV state semifinal tilt at 11 a.m. at the University of Dayton Arena.
ScoresBroadcast.com covers the Botkins (25-3) vs. Richmond Heights (17-4) clash starting with the pregame segment at 10:30. WMVR, 105.5 TAM FM, simulcasts.
Richmond Heights coaches already believe they have “one up” on the Trojans, citing in a northeastern Ohio newspaper that a January game without referees was “the best high school game in the state that no one ever saw.”
Yes, one Greene County newspaper praised Botkins for its triumph over Cedarville by reporting that the “Trojans defense stalled the Indians unstoppable offense for the first time all season long in a terrific regional final played in a super-charged atmosphere.”
But the D-IV Richmond Heights Spartans, who have played only 21 contests, were interrupted often in December by pauses, stops and starts, and, thus, reached out to D-I Mentor for a scrimmage at the start of the 2021 calendar. Unbeaten Mentor, 25-0, faces off with Centerville on Saturday at 5 p.m. in a big division state semi.
So, how good is Botkins’ Friday foe — really?
Well, in a four-quarter, game situation, Heights fared just fine with Mentor over two months ago. “We handled them,” said Heights head coach Quentin Rogers. “We squeaked it out,” he then added.
After three early season setbacks to D-I programs and then some weekend days in December without contests, the Mentor scrimmage helped propel the Heights players over the latter ten weeks of the year. Heights has reeled off 13 straight victories, holding opponents to 26 points per game in the tourney.
Botkins coach Powell wants to make sure Heights players aren’t permitted to perform in space while slashing to the rim.
Judging from videotape of recent Heights victories, opposing defenses have been reluctant to mix man and various zone defenses to restrict the Spartans’ one-on-one style, Powell alluded.
Botkins may have the effective combination of size and quickness that can get the job done versus Heights.
”Defense has been our ‘calling card’ all year,” Powell said. “It must be again on Friday morning.”
While Zane Paul, Denton Homan and Carter Pleiman switched up heading off Cedarville’s Koning at every turn, the entire squad needs “a total team defensive effort” on Friday, Powell noted.
Featured players for the Spartans include a 6-7 post man, Josiah Harris, who is being recruited by Ohio State. Other college prospects are 6-5 Jaiden Cox-Holloway and 6-6 Preist Ryan, along with guards Lorenzo Nettles, Ibn Edwards, and Malikee Sonie.
Double-digit scorer Jamarr Talbert is out for Friday’s game because of an ankle injury. Amarian Dickerson, a 6-6 senior, was in street clothes for Heights regional final against Warren John F. Kennedy. His status for Friday is uncertain.
The final regular season D-IV AP poll ranked Botkins ninth and Heights tenth.
The Trojans last trip to the state final four was in 1994 when they were ousted by Worthington Christian in a semifinal, 89-77.
Friday morning’s winner at UD returns on Sunday at 10:45 a.m. versus the Columbus Grove vs. New Boston Glenwood winner in the D-IV state championship contest.