BOTKINS — The 12-2 Russia Raiders’ slid by with a close 60-59 victory over the Botkins Trojans in Shelby County League action Friday night at Botkins High School.
The Trojans took a 44-39 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Raiders were not about to give up anything. Raising its level of intensity on defense, Russia managed to force a few much-needed turnovers late in the quarter to pull out the win.
“We didn’t really look to change our game plan at all,” Russia varsity coach Paul Bremigan said. “They had an answer for every one of our runs, but we did start trapping a little, which led to some major turnovers in our benefit.”
Down by one with less than a minute to go, Russia’s Treg Francis managed to grab a bucket to put the Raiders’ over the top, 60-59.
The Raiders grabbed the tip to start and managed to put the first two points on the board. But from there on out it was the Trojans’ ballgame.
Going on a nine-point run in the middle of the first quarter, Botkins increased its lead to 18-11.
Russia managed to rally back into the game being led by junior Treg Francis with seven points.
Botkins wasn’t willing to let down the pressure though as it knocked down 13 points of its own to keep the lead at 31- 26 going into the half.
Although the Raiders were down by five, Bremigan knew motivation wasn’t what his boys needed.
“There was not much motivation talk going on, but more just adjustments that needed to be made,” he said. “We knew going in that they had a lot of weapons and were going to be tough to beat twice.”
Coming out of halftime, senior Brandon Wilson and junior Treg Francis both hit buckets to shrink Botkins’ lead by one.
The back-and-forth cycle continued as the Trojans ran the ball up and down the court draining shots all over. Junior Heath Geyer made two buckets of his own, while Josh Schwartz added another seven to the boards.
Francis led the Raiders with 19 points, 10 of which were in the fourth quarter.
“He definitely stepped up to lead the team late in the fourth quarter to carry us. He did a nice job not forcing the ball and just taking what the defense gave him,” Bremigan said.
The Trojans had three players hit double digits, led by seniors Ethan Zimpfer with 12 and Tyler Egbert with 13. Junior Josh Schwartz added 10 on the night.
“We were really just looking to stop Wilson and put a hold on Rittenhouse, and we managed to do both,” Botkins varsity coach Brett Meyer said.
The Trojans held Russia’s Brandon Wilson to two under his average and only gave up six to Rittenhouse, who had 38 points in his last game.
The junior varsity game was won by Russia as well, 47-65.