BOTKINS — Botkins used hot shooting to build a lead in the first half of a Shelby County Athletic League game on Thursday against Russia. The Raiders used suffocating defense in the second half with a mix of long jump shots and inside scoring to storm back.
Russia held Botkins to two points in the third quarter and ran away to a 45-32 victory. The win keeps the Raiders undefeated at 8-0 overall and tied with Fort Loramie for first place in the SCAL with a 4-0 record. The Trojans drop to 6-3 overall and 2-3 in league play.
Russia trailed by six points at halftime but started the second half on a 20-4 run to take control. The Raiders got several baskets from junior forward Laurissa Poling during the run as well as a few long jumpers from Whitney Pleiman and Ashley Scott.
The biggest key to the turnaround wasn’t better execution on offense, though, according to Russia coach Andy Timmerman. He said the game changed because Russia played it’s man-to-man defense with more intensity.
“We just out a little ball pressure on them and got in our gaps a lot better than we did in the first half,” Timmerman said. “We caused them some problems and did well in transition there after we got some turnovers. I think it was just ball pressure and making them uncomfortable.”
The Trojans made four field goals in the second half, two of which came with less than three minutes left in the fourth. They also missed all five of their free-throw attempts in the second half.
“Their defense really pressured our guards and we weren’t able to get into a rhythm on offense,” Botkins coach Mike Maurer said. “We had trouble scoring from that. …They definitely got into our passing lanes and affected us because we weren’t cutting sharply on our backdoor cuts, so we’re waiting on passes and the ball handler’s got to hold the ball longer. It took us out in our flow.”
Russia outscored Botkins 10-2 in the third quarter to take a two-point lead and then ran away in the fourth quarter.
Botkins didn’t score until five minutes into the fourth. Russia meanwhile opened the quarter on a 10-0 run to run away.
Whitney Pleiman hit two foul shots and then added a long jumper from the right side to put Russia up 33-25 with 6:22 left, then Poling added back-to-back baskets to extend the lead to 37-25 with 3:21 left.
Poling, a 6-foot-0 junior forward, continued rolling inside late in the fourth with Botkins 6-2 forward Sarah Bergman and 5-8 forward Grace Homan on the bench.
Poling finished with 20 points, 10 of which came in the fourth.
“I think we just got more ball movement outside, and that helped the defense rotate a little bit more and got her open inside a little bit better,” Timmerman said. “She went up strong with the basketball, which was good. She played well there and rebounded the ball and played physical.”
Pleiman added 11 for Botkins and Jenna Cordonnier added eight. The Raiders made 15-of-22 free-throw attempts and 15 field goals.
Bergman led Botkins with 12 and Paige Lane finished with nine. The Trojans made 5-of-11 free-throw attempts and 11 field goals.
The Trojans led 23-17 at halftime but Russia took control with a dominating third quarter.
Poling opened the quarter with back-to-back baskets in the paint for the Raiders, then Pleiman hit a shot with 3:50 left to tie the score 23-23.
“When we don’t have anything inside, that’s tough for us,” Timmerman said. “But when we can get inside-out, that helps out a lot. Girls are stepping into their shots, which we did a lot better in the second half.”
Ashley Scott hit a long jumper from just inside the left side arc with 2:34 left to give Russia its first lead of the game at 25-23. Jenna Cordonnier made two free throws a minute later to put Russia up by four, but Grace Homan scored a basket for Botkins with 23 seconds left to cut the Raiders’ lead to 27-25.
Botkins didn’t score again until after the 3:00 mark in the fourth.
Lane and Aliya Jones hit 3’s in the first two minutes of the game to give Botkins a 6-0 lead. Pleiman completed a three-point play with four minutes left to bring Russia within 6-5, but the Trojans finished the quarter on a 7-2 run. Jones capped off the scoring in the quarter with another 3-pointer.
Russia scored the first five points of the second quarter, but Botkins responded fast.
Bergman completed a three-point play with 5:28 left to extend the lead to 16-12, then Lane added a 3 to put the Trojans up by seven. Botkins made seven field goals in the first half, including four 3-pointers.
Maurer said he liked the flow of the offense in the first half and said the goal for the team is to move the ball like that consistently.
“We’ve just got to keep on growing and keep on getting better, especially with our offensive flow,” Maurer said. “Once we get that worked out, I think we’ll be just fine.”
Russia returns to action on Saturday at home against Minster. Botkins plays next on Thursday at Mechanicsburg.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.