DAYTON — They aren’t rivals. They didn’t play each other during the regular season and they don’t have a lot of common opponents.
But Columbus Grove and Botkins will know a little about each other going into their Division IV state championship game at 10:45 a.m. Sunday.
“We scrimmaged them last year. That was a battle for sure,” Columbus Grove coach Chris Sautter said after the Bulldogs defeated New Boston Glenwood 58-53 on Friday in their state semifinal game at the University of Dayton Arena.
“They’re pretty good. The two Pleiman kids (Jacob and Carter Pleiman) are, what, 6-5, 6-6? There’s another kid who is about 6-5. It all starts with the point guard (Jayden Priddy-Powell). He’s a great player, handles the ball well, is quick, has a great pull-up jumper and can get to the rim and finish with either hand,” Sautter said.
Botkins (26-3) starts 6-6 junior Jacob Pleiman (15.4 points a game), 5-10 point guard Jayden Priddy-Powell (13.5), 6-5 Carter Pleiman (9.0), 5-11 Zane Paul (7.2) and 6-5 Denton Homan (1.6).
Columbus Grove (25-2) starts 6-4 Blake Reynolds (15.9 points a game), 6-3 Tayt Birnesser (15.1), 6-0 Gabe Clement (10.7), 6-2 Trey Sautter (8.8) and 6-1 Ethan Halker (5.1).
Botkins coach Sean Powell and his players said intimidation and awe were never a factor in the Trojans’ 44-40 win over Richmond Heights in their semifinal.
The Trojans’ win puts them into a boys basketball state championship game for the first time. The school’s only other state tournament trip in 1994 ended in the semifinals. Columbus Grove was state runner-up in 2006.
Botkins came into Friday’s game with the better record but Richmond Heights arrived with more hype.
The Spartans’ 6-7 junior forward Josiah Harris has an offer from Ohio State and their schedule included games against D-I powers Cleveland St. Ignatius and Lakewood St. Edward and Division II Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
But Botkins led at halftime and survived going scoreless for 10 minutes in the second half to get the win.
“They have offers and big names but at the end of the day it’s just basketball,” Botkins coach Sean Powell said. “It’s how five guys work together, how five guys rebound. We felt like we were a better defensive team, a better rebounding team and we were going to take good care of the ball against their pressure.”
Powell, who has a 53-22 record in three seasons at Botkins, is a former Shawnee standout who scored more than 1,000 points in his career and was an assistant coach at Shawnee and Perry before getting his first head coach’s job three years ago.
Jayden Priddy-Powell, who led Botkins with 19 points said, “We believe in ourselves. Coach says we should tell ourselves we’re the best of the best. Don’t ever think we’re going to be behind in the game. Always imagine you’re one up in the game.”
Jameson Meyer, who hit two huge 3-pointers in less than a minute in the fourth quarter said, “If we do what we can do we can play with anybody as long as we do what we can do.”
Priddy-Powell also said playing in the Shelby County League helped prepare Botkins for a game against a team accustomed to playing a physical style.
“In Shelby County we kind of play football and basketball. It’s real physical,” he said.
Quote of the day: ” “It feels pretty good. I’m just glad I made it past the second quarter in this game.” — Columbus Grove senior guard Gabe Clement when asked to compare playing in a state basketball semifinal with playing in a football state semifinal. He was injured in the second quarter of Grove’s state semifinal football game against Coldwater.
Runner-up quote of the day: “Did that really just go in?” — New Boston Glenwood coach Adam Cox on Clement’s halfcourt shot at the end of the third quarter of his team’s state semifinal against Columbus Grove.
They got back: Columbus Grove was one of nine teams in this year’s boys state basketball tournament who were in regionals last season when the tournaments were halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three of the four teams in the Division I tournament – Mentor, Centerville and Westerville Central – were regional qualifiers last year.
Division II also has three state qualifiers who were in regionals in 2020 – Shawnee, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and Columbus DeSales.
Ottawa-Glandorf is the only Division III team among last year’s regional qualifiers who made it all the way to the final four this year. And in Division IV, Columbus Grove and Richmond Heights, reached the state tournament a year after the plug was pulled on their regionals.
Seven of the teams in last week’s girls state tournament were already in Columbus or on their way to it for last year’s state tournament when the OHSAA called it off.