Richmond Heights (17-4), Friday’s opponent for Botkins (25-3) in a Division IV state semifinal, may be short on depth for the game but is still long on size and talent.
With two starters — 6-2 Jamarr Talbert and 6-6 Amarian Dickerson — officially declared out for the state tournament, the Spartans will slide two guards off the bench into the starting five — 5-7 Lorenzo Nettles and 6-0 Malikee Sonie. Ibn Edwards, at 5-9, becomes the sixth man.
How much will Heights miss Talbert and Dickerson’s combined 25 points per game?
ScoresBroadcast.com and WMVR, 105.5 TAM FM, will provide the answer to that question during this morning’s play-by-play and color starting at 10:30 a.m. Jack Kramer and Chuck McBee are on the call.
Kramer pointed out that post man Josiah Harris, a 6-8 junior considering Ohio State, is averaging nearly 19 points per game and may have to step that up versus Botkins to offset the loss of Talbert and Dickerson.
The same can be said for Priest Ryan, a skilled, solid-rebounding 6-6 performer, who generally sticks about seven field goals per contest, mostly near the rim, Kramer detailed.
According to a report shared by the Willoughby News-Herald, long-armed Jaiden Cox-Holloway, who stands 6-5, is an adept, corner, three-point shooter and is usually good for three or four triples per game, Kramer noted.
“The numbers for Harris are eye-popping. He is the club’s second best behind the arc and the top rebounder at a whopping dozen per outing,” the SCORES announcer added. “It’s no wonder the Buckeyes have extended an offer.”
For Botkins, junior Jacob Pleiman leads the way at 15 points; senior Jayden Priddy follows at 14; and sophomore Carter Pleiman, at 9. Junior Jameson Meyer and senior Zane Paul have buried, in total, nearly 100 three-pointers. Priddy has amassed almost 100 assists. Senior Denton Homan is the club’s second best shot-blocker and rebounder behind Jacob Pleiman. Junior Dylan Topp continues to provide key minutes off the bench.
Defensively, Botkins is pushing 250 steals on the season and is averaging five blocks per contest. The Trojans are committing only eleven floor errors per four quarters.
“No question. Limiting live-ball turnovers and Heights easy baskets will be extremely important today,” Botkins third-year head coach Sean Powell said. He is also counting on his club’s versatility and mental toughness.
“Our internal fortitude showed again in the Cedarville regional final. We simply would not allow the opponent to get the lead once we took it for good early in the first quarter,” Powell stated.
And the Trojans can play fast or at a moderate pace, if need be. Botkins is averaging 63 points per contest; Heights, 72. Heights has held four tourney foes to point totals in the 30’s.
Preferably, the Trojans would like to stay out of the 70’s and even the 60’s.
“Heights wants a track meet, running up and down the floor,” Paul noted. “Can’t have that. Our defense has to be the equalizer today. And we must box out strong and match Heights on the glass.”
Botkins has the size to do just that. Jacob Pleiman is a 6-6 junior; Homan, a 6-5 senior; Topp, a 6-4 junior; and Carter Pleiman, a 6-5 sophomore.
The true impact of Heights’ new starters on the perimeter is unknown for sure.
But head coach Quentin Rogers isn’t worried. “We are athletic everywhere. We are difficult to guard all over the floor. We are playing with great confidence. We know how potent this Botkins team is. And we know how strong small school basketball is down there in that part of the state,” Rogers commented.
“The Spartans are ready.”
Richmond Heights, which is a member of the Chagrin Valley Conference, was in the regional final a year ago when the state tourney was halted. Heights played in a state semi-final in 2019 and lost to eventual state champion Convoy Crestview.
Today marks Botkins’ first trip to the state final four since 1994. Worthington Christian topped the Trojans, 89-77, after the two teams played to a 42-all tie at the break.
The Trojans placed four in double figures in that state semifinal. Josh Steinke drilled 20, and Tom Platfoot poured in 15. Phil Vehorn scored 13, and Jason Wendel chipped in with 11. Jason Rickert tallied 9. The other seven roster members were Pat Buehler, Jeff King, Jesse Kreitzer, Kellan Manger, Mike Maurer, Trevor Rogers and Jeremy Wick.
Tony Rogers was the head coach, and Terry Finkenbine and Brett Meyer assisted.
The ball boys were Steve Krebs, Brandon Rogers and Josh Rogers.