KETTERING — Poor shooting in a physical Division IV regional final on Friday at Trent Arena in Kettering proved costly for Botkins.
Tri-Village scored the first seven points to take control and answered every run by the Trojans to earn a 45-36 victory and the program’s third regional title and state berth in eight years.
“Right from the start, we struggled tonight,” Botkins coach Phil Groves said. “It was not our night. …But hat’s off to our kids. You’ve got to give them credit. They battled right to the end.”
Botkins will lose six seniors to graduation, including forward Jacob Pleiman, who is a four-year starter. Pleiman was named Shelby County Athletic League player of the year this season and was Southwest district Div. IV co-player of the year, along with Tri-Village’s Layne Sarver.
The Trojans will also lose guards Jameson Meyer, Jaydon Wendel and Jack Dietz to graduation along with forwards Elijah Stewart and Dylan Topp.
“I can’t say enough about our seniors,” Groves said. “To take us to state last year, win a state title, then come back (to a regional final) this year. Their leadership is second to none.”
The Trojans shot 3 for 19 from the floor in the first half and 13 for 47 (27.7 percent) for the game. Tri-Village shot 15 for 35 (42.9 percent) from the floor and 11 for 14 from the free-throw line.
“Going into the game, we knew it would probably be the team that made the most shots would win, so hat’s off to them,” Groves said. “They shot the ball well offensively. Tonight was not our night. Part of that has to be given credit to their defense. They did a great job defensively.”
Tri-Village led by six points at halftime, but Carter Pleiman made a three-point play and Jacob Pleiman made a put-back to pull Botkins within 18-17 with about five minutes left.
But Layne Sarver made a driving layup and later made a nothing-but-net 3 from the right wing with 3:14 left to give Tri-Village a 23-17 lead.
The Patriots pushed their lead to 25-17 before Jameson Meyer scored on a steal and layup. But Justin Finkbine made a shot in the post with 30 seconds left, then Josh Scantland made a put-back at the buzzer to give Tri-Village a 29-19 lead heading into the fourth.
Botkins made one last run by scoring the first seven points of the fourth, including a deep 3 from Meyer, followed by two free throws by Jacob Pleiman with 4:48 left to cut the gap to 29-26.
But Wilson Suggs hit a wide-open 3 from the right corner with just under four minutes left to break Tri-Village’s scoreless streak and push the lead to 32-26, then Sarver scored on a drive with about three minutes left to increase the lead to eight.
“That was a huge basket. That was kind of the dagger,” Groves said of Suggs’ 3. “I don’t know if we lost somebody defensively or what the situation was.”
The Patriots (25-3) pushed their lead to as many as 11 points in the final two minutes.
“I’m just really pleased with our kids’ effort and grit and fight,” Tri-Village coach Josh Sagester said. “I thought they battled all night long.”
Botkins beat Tri-Village 51-50 in double overtime in a game in Flyin’ to the Hoop at Trent Arena in January.
“We talked about our first shot defense being really good, but our second shot defense let us down the first time we played them,” Sagester said. “They had 15 points on second-chance rebounds. Tonight, we still struggled at times, but we got just enough, and obviously, they didn’t shoot their typical percentage.
“… But we got a lot better looks offensively tonight ourselves then we did the first go-around with them. They’re a very good team. The Pleimans are exceptional players, the Meyer kid is a great shooter. It’s a shame someone has to go home here in Southwest Ohio, but we’re very fortunate to be moving forward and very happy.”
Sarver, who scored 11 points in the January matchup, finished with a game-high 20 on Friday and had five rebounds. Finkbine finished with 10 points and four rebounds. Scantland scored five points and had nine rebounds. Suggs finished with seven points.
Jacob Pleiman led Botkins with 15 points and had six rebounds. Meyer finished with 11 points, and Carter Pleiman finished with seven points and 12 rebounds. The Trojans had a 29-27 rebounding edge.
Meyer was a huge 3-point shooter for Botkins all season, but he was 2 for 8 from behind the arc on Friday and struggled to find open looks. The Trojans finished 4 for 28 from behind the arc.
“He’s got great range and a lot of confidence,” Sagester said of Meyer. “Wilson Suggs and Tanner Printz did a great job of guarding him. …We talked a lot about all week of not giving up 3-point shots as opposed to 2s, because they add up a little quicker.”
Neither team shot well early, but Tri-Village scored the first seven points, the last of which came on a pull-up jumper by Suggs with 3:36 left.
Meyer made three free throws with 2:01 left in the first to break the Trojans’ scoreless streak and cut the gap to 7-3, but the Patriots scored the last four points of the quarter to take an 11-3 lead.
“I think we should have tried to get the ball into the post a little bit more,” Groves said. “I think we settled a little bit from the perimeter when we should have kept attacking.
“That was the message talking about in the huddles and before the game. But when kids are open and are good shooters, you have to have confidence in their ability to knock down open shots. They just didn’t fall tonight.”
Jacob Pleiman made a put-back and a 3 from the top of the key in the first three minutes of the second to pull the Trojans within 11-8, but Sarver hit a 3 to push the lead back to six, and the squads traded points to a 16-10 halftime score.
“We tried to get the ball inside to Jacob, and every time we got the ball inside, it seemed like there would be two or three guys swarming, and for whatever reason, we could not find the open person diving to the basket or open on the perimeter. Hat’s off to them defensively; they did a great job.”
The Patriots will face Antwerp in a state semifinal on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Dayton.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.