DAYTON — After 10 scoreless minutes in the second half of a Division IV state semifinal, Botkins’ title hopes looked to be little more than dreams.
Jameson Meyer helped keep those those dreams alive.
Meyer hit two crucial 3-pointers to help the Trojans rally and earn a 44-40 victory over Richmond Heights on Friday at University of Dayton Arena to advance the squad to the Div. IV state title game. The Trojans (26-3) will play Columbus Grove (25-2) for the state championship on Sunday morning.
Meyer scored 21 points in Botkins’ regional semifinal win over Newark Catholic and was a target of Richmond Heights’ defense according to coach Quentin Rogers.
He — nor any of Botkins’ players — had done well shooting from 3-point range before the fourth quarter. The Trojans had made 1-of-10 three-pointers, while Meyer missed his only two other attempts.
“I was just missing short,” Meyer said. “I just (had to) get more arc on it, just get it there and give it a chance.”
But he hit the biggest shots of the game. His first big 3 came shortly after he came off the bench when he made a shot from the left wing with 2:53 left to give the squad a 37-36 lead.
“It was just (a sense of) relief,” Meyer said. “All that hard work finally paying off. Got one more game to knock a couple more down.”
After Ryan Priest made a basket in the paint 25 seconds later to put the Spartans ahead by one again, Meyer made another nothing-but-net 3 to give Botkins a 40-38 lead.
Josiah Harris made a basket with 1:39 left to tie it 40-40, but Jayden Priddy-Powell responded with a pull-up jumper with 1:13 left to put the Trojans ahead by two points.
Harris had a basket in the paint rim out on Richmond Heights’ next possession, and Carter Pleiman grabbed the rebound but turned it over shortly after.
But Priddy-Powell stole the ball away from Jamari Peterson with 38 seconds left, and Richmond Heights then committed a series of fouls to push its total to the bonus.
“Before that, they ran that play like three times,” Priddy-Powell said of the steal. “Thanks to Professor, (assistant) Coach (Andrew) Davis, we know every play call. We do that in practice. I just read the offense.”
Priddy-Powell split a pair of free throws with 21 seconds left to push the lead to 43-40.
The Spartans missed a rushed 3-pointer with 12 seconds left and Denton Homan grabbed the rebound. The squad worked the ball to 6-foot-5 junior forward Jacob Pleiman, who split a pair of foul shots with seven seconds left to secure the win.
Pleiman was largely held in check by Harris, a 6-7 junior forward who is garnering interest from Ohio State and other D-I universities.
But despite scoring a season-low six points, Pleiman had eight rebounds, two blocks and three steals.
“Even though he’s one of our best players, he still doesn’t know how good he is and how good he can be,” Botkins coach Sean Powell said. “… It (was) a challenge for him, but we believe he’s always the best big man on the floor, and that’s why we go to him all the time.”
Priddy-Powell, who is Powell’s son, scored a game-high 19 points. He said there was no doubt among players even after the squad fell behind by five points in the second half.
“We believe in ourselves,” Priddy-Powell said. “We tell ourselves, ‘We’re the best of the best.’ We tell each other, ‘We will win. Don’t ever think we’re going to be trailing in a game.’”
Zane Paul finished with nine points while Meyer finished with six. Carter Pleiman scored four points and had a team-high 10 rebounds and five assists.
Harris led the Spartans (17-5) with 16 points and 12 rebounds while Malaki Sonie Jr. scored nine, all of which came on 3’s in the first half. Richmond Heights shot 14 for 46 (30.4 percent) from the floor and was outrebounded 31-30.
Powell praised the team’s defensive effort on Harris and all of Richmond Heights’ players. The Spartans entered the game averaging 75.1 points per game.
“The confidence to go out on the floor and play a team like Richmond Heights …it all started Monday in practice getting ready for them,” Powell said. “Once you give the kids all the information that they need, it gives them the confidence. …When you’re prepared, you have all the confidence in the world.
“… But to be honest, we played teams just as good as Richmond Heights this year. To beat a Jackson Center team, you have to be just as tuned in and ready to go. …Richmond Heights may have offers and big names, but at the end of the day, it’s basketball. It’s how five guys work together.”
Botkins led 27-24 at halftime. Paul made a 3 with 7:31 left in the third to give the squad a 30-26 lead, but they didn’t score again until Pleiman made a basket with 5:04 left in the fourth. Richmond Heights went on a 9-0 run in between those baskets to take a 35-30 lead.
“During that stretch, defensively I felt like we did a very good job,” Powell said. “… I felt we were pressing a little bit, not taking care of the basketball. Every shot was a little short instead of just executing and playing that one possession. We’ll do a little better on that on Sunday.”
Priddy-Powell made a driving layup with 3:30 left to cut the gap to 36-34 before Meyer made his first 3-pointer.
Though the Trojans couldn’t hit outside shots in the first half, they found success attacking inside. They took an 11-5 lead with 2:06 left after a jumper by Paul, but Richmond Heights finished on an 11-4 run to take a 16-15 lead. Sonie hit a 3 at the buzzer to give the Spartans the lead.
Paul hit the first basket of the second quarter, then Pleiman made a fast-break dunk with 6:32 left to give Botkins a 19-16 lead. The teams traded baskets the rest of the half.
Columbus Grove beat New Boston Glenwood 58-53 in the second D-IV semifinal on Friday in Dayton. The Bulldogs, which lost 47-41 to Jackson Center in a nonconference game last month, scrimmaged Botkins two years ago.
“We were supposed to scrimmage them this year as well, but we couldn’t make it happen,” Powell said. “They’re a very good team. Strong seniors. It’s going to be a great game.”
It’s the first time Botkins has ever played in a state final. The program’s only previous state appearance came in 1994, when it lost in a semifinal.
But Powell said inexperience won’t be an issue on Sunday. All but three of the team’s players have previously competed in state events either for the school’s boys soccer or boys golf programs.
“They have a winning pedigree. It’s not just basketball at Botkins,” Powell said.
Sunday’s state final will tip off at 10:45 a.m.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.