DAYTON — Before he accepted the head coaching job at Botkins in the spring of 2018, Sean Powell did not know much about the small village school’s basketball program. What he did know wasn’t positive.
“From people on the outside, I’d heard a lot of negative things,” Powell said. “They struggled as far as wins and losses.”
Less than three years after becoming the school’s coach, the Trojans won it all.
Botkins scored the first 16 points and pulled away late to a 60-44 victory over Columbus Grove on Sunday morning at University of Dayton Arena to earn the Division IV state championship. It’s the first team state title in school history.
Junior forward Jacob Pleiman said Powell told the team a state title was possible three years ago.
“He’s always told me there’s something special in the way here and as long as I buy in and every one keeps buying in, we can achieve something special,” Pleiman said. “… It just feels good that we’re finally making it happen.”
Powell’s son Jayden Priddy-Powell played a major role in the victory. Priddy-Powell, a senior guard, hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 total points in the first four and a half minutes to help the squad build a 16-0 lead. He finished with a game-high 27 points.
“They seemed to not respect my 3-ball,” Priddy-Powell said. “Going off screens, they would go under. I was told if they go under screen to stop, shoot it.”
The Powells jumped and high-fived when Priddy-Powell was taken out of the game in the final minute, and they embraced after the game shortly after the trophy presentation.
“In the future and right now, it’s going to be a great memory,” Priddy-Powell said. “We get into it sometimes, but a lot of memories have been made.”
Powell saved most of his praise after the game for the rest of the team’s players. There were plenty of players to praise; aside from two other players that scored in double figures, every one on the team had a hand in containing the Bulldogs.
Columbus Grove (25-3) relied on hot 3-point shooting for much of the season and hit 7-of-17 attempts in a 58-53 win over New Boston Glenwood in a state semifinal.
But they shot 3 for 14 from 3-point range on Sunday and 18 for 50 (36 percent) from the floor.
“I knew if we would be able to sprint back and defend and make their offense go against our five, they would struggle,” Powell said.
To make things worse for Columbus Grove, Jacob and Carter Pleiman ate up or swatted away most rebound attempts, along with senior forward Denton Homan. The squad had a 33-24 rebounding edge, and the Bulldogs managed to grab 10 offensive rebounds off their 32 missed shots.
Carter Pleiman, a 6-foot-5 sophomore forward, scored 17 points and had six rebounds and three assists. Jacob Pleiman scored 10 points and had eight rebounds, and Homan led the squad with nine rebounds.
“We all did a good job of getting the rebounds,” Carter Pleiman said. “We scouted them and knew they weren’t the best at getting rebounds, and we had better size than them.”
Botkins shot 21 for 37 (56.8 percent) from the floor.
The Trojans (27-3) made five of their first six shots while building their 16-0 lead. Priddy-Powell hit three 3-pointers during the run, including back-to-back shots that gave the squad a 13-0 lead. Zane Paul finished the run with a 3 with 3:22 left.
The Trojans led 20-7 at the end of the first. Jacob Pleiman picked up two quick fouls early in the second quarter and was on the bench the rest of the half. Columbus Grove was able to get going offensively and quickly narrowed the game with a 15-4 run, which Blake Reynolds capped off with a basket in the paint with 2:06 left.
“Before they made that big run, my coaches were telling them that we made our first run and they were going to come back with a run,” Powell said. “This game was going to be determined by how we stopped their run. I think we did a pretty job of stopping their run.
“… Going up 16-0, it’s easy to take your foot off the gas. I feel like we did that early.
Priddy-Powell made a basket after a rebound by Homan with 34 seconds left, then Carter Pleiman made a jumper with nine seconds left to increase the lead to 28-22 at halftime.
Trey Saunter hit a 3 to start the third quarter and bring Columbus Grove within three points. The teams traded baskets until Botkins scored the last three points on foul shots by Carter Pleiman and Priddy-Powell, which increased the lead to 37-32 heading into the fourth.
After the Bulldogs pulled within three points early in the final quarter, Priddy-Powell hit a 3 with 7:33 left, then Carter Pleiman hit a driving layup with 6:39 left to push the lead to 42-34. The Bulldogs never pulled closer than six points the rest of the way.
Carter Pleiman hit a basket with 5:14 left and Paul made a 3 with 4:48 left to push the lead to double digits again at 48-37. The Trojans scored the game’s last six points to push the margin of victory to 16 points.
Botkins will lose six seniors to graduation, including Priddy-Powell, who transferred to the school three years ago when Powell was named the program’s coach.
The squad will also lose Homan, Paul, Parker Geis, Tyler Free and Garrett Greve to graduation.
Priddy-Powell said he did not know much about Botkins when he followed his father three years ago but is happy to have finished his prep career with his senior teammates.
“I was a little surprised when I transferred over,” Priddy-Powell said. “It was the last week of my freshman year. Right when I came in, they felt like brothers. They just took me in like brothers. We just bonded.”
Gabe Clement led Columbus Grove with 18 points while Reynolds scored 17.
Botkins becomes the third Shelby County Athletic League member to earn a boys basketball state title. It’s the first title a league member has won since Fort Loramie captured the 1993 D-IV championship.
The Trojans won their first SCAL title since 1993 this season, won a district title for the first time since 2001 and earned a state berth for the first time since 1994.
Powell said he doesn’t think it will take as long for those titles to occur again.
“This is just a start,” Powell said. “We want to build a program that is based on winning. Whenever people say ‘Botkins,’ I want them to think of winning. These guys were the first, but there were a lot of little kids out there with ‘Botkins,’ on their chest, and they’re next.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.