On a night when senior Hayden Quinter scored his 1,000th career point as a Raider, Russia needed that, and a second half comeback to remain unbeaten against Botkins.
Botkins, OH – Apparently, the Botkins Trojans made it a New Year’s resolution that the Russia Raiders (9-0) would not run away with the Shelby County League basketball title.
And unbeaten themselves (6-0), entering Tuesday’s conference matchup with Russia, they proved that they not only would not go down without a fight…but beware, Russia, of that return engagement scheduled in Russia five weeks from now, on February 9.
After clawing back from an early eight-point first half deficit to tie Russia at the half, 31-31, Botkins actually went ahead in the third quarter by as much as seven points, forcing Russia to prove that their ability to score, their athleticism, and depth off the bench was as good as advertised. Russia did just that, going on a 9-1 fourth quarter run to reclaim the lead, and eventually a 62-57 win.
“They showed some things that we didn’t expect,” Russia coach Spencer Cordonnier said, afterwards. “We didn’t expect them to shoot the three-pointers like they did.”
Tied at 4-4 early on, Russia quickly ran out to a 17-11 lead by the end of the first quarter – running the court, sharing the ball, and taking high percentage shots. But immediately out of the between-quarters huddle, Botkins changed all of that.
The Trojans went on a three-point feeding binge in the second quarter, hitting five of eight shots from behind the arc, highlighted by 6’1″ junior Noah Topp, who hit three in a row from the wing and the corner to help Botkins outscore Russia for the period, and draw even by halftime, 31-31.
If confidence begats good shooting, there was never a more confident bunch for those eight minutes, as senior Rylyn Paul started the onslaught with a trey, fellow senior JJ Meyer chipped in with another, and Topp joined the frenzy with his three, catch and shoot as easy as tying your shoe.
It reeled Russia, along with added defensive pressure from Botkins as coach Phil Groves exhorted them from the sidelines to increase the intensity.
“They defended us very well, you’ve got to give them credit,” added Cordonnier. “They were able to take some things away that we like to do. They got physical inside with us, which is fine. And they took away some of our dribble drive stuff in a different way. They did some switching and things that we’ll make an adjustment for. They’re well-coached, and they’re a veteran group, too. They’ve been playing pretty well.”
But the big thing for Botkins…was 11 made three-pointers on the night in 24 attempts (unofficially, 45.8%)), and a continued assault on the basket as they came out of the halftime locker room. Topp continued his hot hand, canning another pair of threes in the third quarter (8 total points), along with one from Jordan Herzog, to take a 7-point lead on the Raiders.
Just as quickly, Russia began its own assault on the rim with a clutch three from Jax Grojean on the wing to ease the stress, then a pair of buckets Vince Borchers and Ben York…along with another pair of buckets from senior Hayden Quinter, who entering the game needed just 10 points to reach the 1,000 point plateau for his high school career.
Quinter scored six of those points in the first half, added two more early in the third quarter, and at the 1:18 mark of the quarter scored on a baseline drive over Herzog to reach the milestone. He would finish the game with 11 points, sitting at 1,001.
Botkins would outscore Russia 17-14 for the quarter, and led 48-45 entering the fourth…and enter Braylon Cordonnier, who led a rapid-fire ascension on the deficit with a bucket and a foul shot, then canned a wide-open three-pointer from the top of the key, all part of a 9-1 Russia run that would flip the score to an 8-point lead in the Raiders’ favor.
“I looked and there was no one there,” said Cordonnier, who eventually led all Russia scorers with 16 points. “I had been struggling, but I finally got one to fall. We just started moving the ball (on the 9-1 run), found some mismatches we liked, and we got the ball to the people that we knew could score the easiest.”
Botkins would not go away, closing the deficit to four points on a pair of threes by Meyer and Collin Doseck…but forced to foul they sent Russia to the line where the Raiders cashed in, for the night hitting 15 of 19 attempts (79%). The clock became a second opponent, as the Trojans simply ran out of time and three pointers. Ironically, for the night they would have three more 3-point shots (11) than they would 2-pointers (8).
In the history of Russia basketball there’s probably no more popular figure than that of Hayden Quinter, so there were smiles all around for his thousandth point, a standing ovation from the large crowd there to witness it, and a sheepish grin as he waved in acknowledgment.
“That’s what you need out of a guy [like Hayden],” said Braylon Cordonnier in the post-game locker room. “He lets the game come to him. He has his thousand points, but he always puts the team first.”
“It feels amazing,” grinned Quinter. “I knew I was close at the start of the season and I just wanted to get it over with as quick as I could. Part of being a good teammate is sharing the ball, look for the open guy, and we all like to play together.”
And true to his character, he gave credit to the effort from Botkins, even on his big night.
“They played great tonight, and they couldn’t miss a shot, especially those threes.”
Make no mistake, the rematch will be interesting, and in the meantime Botkins will surprise some people with their outstanding guard play from JJ Meyer (6 pts), Rylyn Paul (11 pts), and Collin Doseck (16 pts).
And given a night when you get 5 of 9 from behind the arc (and a game-high 17 points) from Noah Topp…yeah, there’ll be a lot of interesting nights involving the Trojans.
No one’s running away with anything.