Flyin’ to the Hoop: Top-ranked Botkins outlasts No. 4 Tri-Village in double OT

KETTERING – Sunday’s early crowd at the Premier Health Flyin’ To The Hoop was rewarded by witnessing double overtime and possibly a preview of March’s Division IV regional final.

Botkins, the defending state champion and the state’s top-ranked team at 12-1, battled with fourth-ranked Tri-Village for 40 minutes. Eventually Botkins’ senior center Jacob Pleiman made a free throw with two seconds left to lift Botkins to a 51-50 victory.

Pleiman, who scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, struggled with some late-game turnovers, but he was ready for the big moment at the foul line.

“He’s our rock, he’s one of our leaders and always been consistent for us,” Botkins coach Phil Groves said. “He had a couple struggles there in the fourth quarter, but we want to get the ball in his hands and let him make a play. And there at the end he made the free throw that counted.”

Tri-Village (10-3) rallied in regulation on two clutch 3-pointers by Dalton Delong, who scored a team-high 12 points. The teams took turns holding for a last shot, and in the second overtime that shot predictably went to leading scorer Layne Sarver. But Carter Pleiman got a finger on the 15-footer and his brother corralled it for the rebound and was fouled to set up the winning free throw.

Botkins played without starting forward Dylan Topp, but 6-5 senior Elijah Stewart made his first start and surpassed his season totals of minutes and points with 13. Jameson Meyer added 12 points on four 3-pointers.

Groves is in his first year as Botkins coach, but he’s been at the school a long time and was the girls coach in recent years. He witnessed last year’s run to the state title. He hopes to see another long tournament run from the bench this time around.

Could Sunday’s game have been a preview of a regional matchup?

“I would love to see these guys again,” Groves said. “Because that means we’ve advanced quite a ways.”

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