PIQUA — Spencer Heuker had been contained for most of a Division IV sectional quarterfinal against Riverside on Saturday. But even three defenders couldn’t stop him in the final seconds.
Heuker took an inbounds pass, drove inside against three Riverside defenders and scored a basket off the glass with 21 seconds left to give Botkins a one-point lead. The Trojans then held Riverside to one last shot, which bounced off the rim to preserve a 40-39 win.
“He was able to find just enough of a seam to get it up off the glass,” Meyer said of Heuker’s shot. “Big shot. We had a few tonight that we did not knock down, but that one, we executed on.”
Riverside called a timeout with 15 seconds left to set up a final shot. John Zumberger put up a jumper that hit off the rim. Botkins grabbed the rebound.
“The last 15 seconds, I thought we played great defense after we scored,” Meyer said. “We caused them to use a timeout, and they really didn’t get that good of a shot off at the end.”
Botkins had an offensive foul with about 30 second left, but Riverside failed to get the ball inbounds before a five-second violation. That gave Botkins a chance for an inbounds pass, which went to Heuker.
“Coach called the play, and I just executed it well,” Heuker said.
Riverside coach Seth Bodenmiller said he was happy with the team’s last-second shot and credited Botkins for good defense.
“We just wanted to get something toward the rim,” Bodenmiller said. “We drew something up to get the ball in quick. They guarded it pretty well and took away a lot of our options.
“… It was a good look. Obviously we hoped it would have gone in or gotten a rebound, something along those lines. But you’ve got to give Botkins’ defense credit. They definitely locked down there, especially in the fourth quarter.”
It was tied 29-29 midway through the fourth, but Lane Willoby hit a basket and Wyatt Auflick made a 3-pointer to put the Pirates ahead by five.
Ethan Butcher made a 3 from the right wing with 3:19 left, but Zumberger hit a 3 from the left wing with 3:19 left to push Riverside’s lead to 37-32.
“We kind of got lost on a couple of them, and they buried them,” Meyer said. “… Riverside played a great game, so give a lot of credit to them as well. Seth does a great job and has really brought them around. He’s doing the right things there.”
Willoby added a free throw with 2:26 left to give Riverside a 38-32 lead.
Botkins came storming back, though. Butcher made a layup as he was fouled and followed with a free throw with 1:59 left to cut the deficit to three points. He then made a 3 from the left wing with 1:42 to tie the score.
“He’s our only senior, and we love him to death,” Meyer said of Butcher. “He does not want to lose. He’s going to do whatever he can to push us through. He really played a great game for us, especially down the stretch. He really kept us together.”
Butcher, who wears protective headgear during games, led Botkins 19 points and had six rebounds. Heuker, who scored 14 points, said Butcher is a strong competitor.
“That’s how you know he’s a hard worker,” Heuker said of Butcher’s headgear. “Dive for the ball, gets hit in the head a lot. …I love playing with the guy. He’s a great guy. Being a senior, this is what he wanted.”
Willoby fouled out in the final minute, and Bodenmiller said his presence was missed on defense.
“I thought he did a pretty good job on Heuker for the majority of the game,” Bodenmiller said. “When he fouled out, we definitely took a step back defensively. I don’t know how you defend that any better, though. It was a tough shot, and he got the ball to go in.”
Botkins shot 12-for-42 (28.6 percent) from the floor while Riverside shot 14-for-41 (34.1 percent). The teams each had 33 rebounds. Riverside had 15 turnovers to 12 by Botkins.
“The game wasn’t won or lost in the final seconds,” Bodenmiller said. “We had nine turnovers in the first half, and in second and third quarters missed layups that were wide open. Those are the tough ones. You’ll have these. It’s unfortunate for our seniors to end kind of on a sour note.”
Botkins beat Riverside by five points in regular season to improve to 6-5. The Trojans struggled down the stretch, though, as they lost nine games. They improved to 8-15 overall with Saturday’s win.
“When you’ve got young guys like we do, to come here to Piqua and win is huge,” Meyer said. “It’s big for them and big for the program. To be able to stick together down the stretch says a lot about their character. We feel fortunate to get out of here with a win. Hopefully this will give our young guys confidence.
Botkins will face Ansonia in a second-round game on Wednesday at Piqua.
Riverside finished 8-15 overall. The Pirates will lose seniors Trey Lane and Josh Ritzma to graduation.
“I was pretty pleased with how we were able to handle (Botkins’) pressure,” Bodenmiller said. “We’ve struggled with that this year. We were really patient with the basketball when I thought we needed to be. Defensively, we stepped up a lot of times when it was tough for us. We got in some foul trouble early, which hurt us a little bit. But I could not be more proud of the effort our guys gave for four quarters.”
Riverside last second shot no good. Botkins wins 40-39. pic.twitter.com/cWC5uJraAU
— Bryant Billing (@TopBillingSport) February 25, 2018
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.