“I told them when we got here that if they stayed, we would be champions,” said third-year Botkins coach Sean Powell. “So far we’ve got a league champion, a district championship, a sectional champion, now a regional. I don’t see why we can’t finish it off.”
Cedarville’s offensive runs this season, and in their comeback wins over Jackson Center in the district final and Tri-Village in the regional semifinal, were fueled by transition baskets and second-chance points. But when the Indians got in the open floor, Botkins got back and stopped them. And Botkins’ physical front line that goes 6-6, 6-5, 6-5 kept the Indians off the offensive boards.
“Some of our ways we get easy buckets to help get us going, I thought they did a really nice job of taking that away,” Godlove said.
The Trojans also kept the Indians from getting to the rim as much as usual, and their big men bothered shots inside.
“When we did get good looks, we just didn’t knock them down the way we have in the tournament,” Godlove said.
Cedarville has also been the physical aggressor most of the season, but Botkins matched them.
“With the exception of Jackson Center, this team was very physical,” Koning said. “They were able to really take control of the defensive and offensive glass, and that was incredible the way they were able to do that.”
Still, the Indians had a chance late. Down 38-32, Caleb McKinion turned a steal into a layup. He added a free throw with 59 seconds left to trim the deficit to 38-35. Carter Pleiman, a 6-5 sophomore, responded with two free throws with 27 seconds left.
Koning made two free throws with nine seconds left, but Pleiman responded with two more with five seconds left for 42-37 lead. The Indians made 10 of 14 free throws but only 6 of 10 when they needed them the most in the final five minutes.
“Again, we found ourselves down, but the guys kept battling,” Godlove said. “We made a run and gave ourselves a chance. Usually, we’re a really good free-throw shooting team.”
Koning scored 14 and Ramey eight to lead Cedarville. Jayden Priddy-Powell led Botkins with 16, including seven in the first quarter when the Trojans built a 13-6 lead to put Cedarville in catch-up mode.
Cedarville’s season was built on the experience of five senior starters – Koning, Ramey, McKinion, Hunter Baldwin and Payton Herron.
“I just can’t say enough about this group of guys and the way they’ve come together as a team, the way they played with heart, with passion, the way they represented the community,” Godlove said.
Reaching the regional final did not surprise Koning.
“Nothing less than what happened,” said Koning, who earned first-team all-Southwest District honors. “My guys, my seniors, we’ve been putting in so much work. We didn’t take too much into account with the rankings or what other people tell us we are. We know who we are, and every game we showed who we are and that’s why we got to where we are today.”