VANDALIA — Cedarville almost did it again.
After rallying from double-digit deficits in its previous two Division-IV boys basketball tournament games (a district final and a regional semifinal), Cedarville cut a nine-point Botkins lead to just three twice in the final minute of Friday’s regional championship game. But unlike Cedarville’s previous two opponents, the Trojans were able to hang on.
Carter Pleiman made four free throws in the final 30 seconds to help Botkins escape with a 42-40 win at Butler High School to advance to the state semis for the second time in school history and first since 1994.
Cedarville (24-2) never led, trailed by six at halftime and by at least five points throughout much of the second half. But that game-changing scoring run never came.
“I felt like there was multiple times … OK, we’re about ready to make our run,” Coach Ryan Godlove said. “Felt like we couldn’t get over the hump to get that release.”
The Trojans (25-3) used a height advantage and stingy defense to prevent Cedarville from taking over late like it did against Jackson Center and Tri-Village.
“Their transition defense was really tough,” Godlove said. “I felt like they were able to get back. Their bigs altered shots at the rim. We also rely on offensive rebounds quite a bit and they took that away.”
Up 29-26 after three quarters, Botkins — which will play Richmond Heights in one semifinal March 19 — began the fourth on a 7-1 run to lead 36-27 with 4:13 left. But Payton Herron made a three-pointer and Trent Koning made two of three at the free throw line after being fouled on a three-point attempt.
Two free throws from Botkins’ Jayden Priddy-Powell made it 38-32 with 2:23 left and about a minute later, Caleb McKinion scored off a turnover and then made one of two from the line with 59.3 left to make it 38-35. Cedarville was forced to foul and Pleiman sandwiched his four free throws around a pair of free throws from Koning, the final two with 5.9 left to seal the win.
Fittingly, Koning made an NBA-range three-pointer as time expired to cap off a brilliant career and four-year run. He finished with a team high 14 points.
“It’s a lot further than anyone thought we were going to get,” he said. “It’s been amazing.”
In his final game for Cedarville, Isaiah Ramey scored eight points, while fellow senior Herron finished with six and McKinion, another senior, five. Hunter Baldwin also played his last game for Cedarville and had two points while battling Botkins’ bigs in the lane all night.
Priddy-Powell led all scorers with 16.
“I can’t say enough about our guys,” Godlove said.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.