The Patriots celebrate after defeating Botkins 45-36 to win the DIV Southwest District Regional Championship punching their ticket to the Final Four. (Dale Barger Photo)

Suffocating Team Defense Punches Patriots Ticket to Final Four.

KETTERING – Tri-Village got the much-anticipated rematch with Botkins in the DIV Regional Final and this time the Patriots made it count by stifling the Trojans offense to earn a 45-36 win to punch their ticket to the State Final Four for the first time since 2015. 

Tri-Village set the tone early on Botkins 1st possession as junior forward Justin Finkbine dove for a ball near midcourt drawing a foul on Jacob Pleiman in the process.  It was that type of effort that didn’t allow a single field goal to the Trojans in the opening frame.

Tri-Village held an 11-3 lead in the opening quarter with all 5 starters scoring in the process serving notice the Patriots aren’t just a one-man team.

Botkins handed the Patriots a painful loss back on January 16th 51-50 in double overtime on the same floor at Trent Arena at the prestigious “Flying to the Hoop”.  It was a game Tri-Village senior Layne Sarver would like to forget having turned in a subpar performance by his standards.

But Sarver and his teammates were focused especially on the defensive end of the floor.  Their man defense was solid and connected limiting touches in the paint to big man Jacob Pleiman who was the DIV Southwest District Co-Player of the Year, along with Layne Sarver.

Tri-Village showed double and triple coverage in the post at times and worked their tail off to get out on shooters.  Botkins, Jameson Myers eventually drew a foul on a triple attempt and made the free throws for the 11-3 first quarter score.

The defending DIV State Champions are a good defensive team as well stepping it up in the second quarter holding the Patriots to just 5 points a triple by Sarver and fielder by Scantland.

With limited paint touches Jacob Pleiman fired in a triple and then drove to the basket for a score, then got a bucket from younger brother junior Carter Pleiman to draw closer trailing the Patriots 16-10 at the break.

In the 3rd quarter Botkins closed the gap to 18-17 on the strength of back-to-back baskets by Carter Pleiman, the second being an old-fashioned 3-point play bringing the Trojans fans off their feet and fully engaged in the game.

In a critical time of the game, it was Layne Sarver stepping forward to counter with a drive and a strong finish at the rim followed by a triple to push the lead back out to 6, 23-17 to regain some of the momentum.

Tri-Village got 6 points from Justin Finkbine in the 3rd quarter and tip in by Josh Scantland at the horn to give the Patriots a 29-19 lead.

In a low scoring game with limited possession every possession is important, and the Patriots would open the door for the Botkins with some unforced turnovers early in the 4th stanza and good teams usually make you pay.


Botkins Jacob Pleiman helped his teams cause narrowing the gap to 29-26 with just under 4 minutes to play.

The Patriots needed a big play and with Botkins doubling up on Sarver, Wilson Suggs positioned himself into the deep corner where Sarver was able to find him, and the junior guard hit the biggest shot of his career to push the lead back out to 32-26 at 3:42.

“To win big games you must have unsung heroes making plays and tonight Wilson Suggs made one of those plays, Tri-Village coach Josh Sagester said.

Tri-Village showed patience and spread the floor from there and eventually Botkins was forced to foul, and the Patriots were 11-for-14 for the game from the stripe.

Botkins never folded and fired in 3 long range triples late in the game all from 30’ trying to give themselves a chance.

But Layne Sarver who clearly played a phenomenal game emphatically placed an exclamation point with a thunderous two-handed dunk right in front of the student cheering section all the while gazing into their eyes to say … hey we did it … sending them into a frenzy along with all the Patriot fans.

It erased a bad memory of losing to the Trojans earlier in the year as the senior played with a quiet confidence, focused and determined to lead all scorers in the game with 20 points. 

“Layne was on display tonight,” Sagester said. “He’s special in a lot of different ways, big players have to make big plays in big games.”

When the Patriots finished off the 45-36 victory, Sarver bounced the ball hard onto the court sending the ball 40’ into the air that kicked-off a midcourt celebration.

How good was the Patriot defense?  Botkins shot just 27% for the game and only 14% beyond the arch while holding the Trojans 20 points below their season average and that requires toughness and determination.  That tone was set from the start by the play of Finkbine giving up his body showing grit and fight.

“You have to give their defense a lot of credit, they were very good defensively and we knew it was going to come down to who makes shots,” Botkins coach Phil Groves said after the game.

“I’m just really pleased with our kids’ effort, their grit and fight,” said Patriots coach Josh Sagester. “I thought they battled hard all night long.”

The Patriots played confident and composed and never wilted, twice Botkins made strong runs, but they responded each time. 

“I’m just real proud of  our kids, they played confident tonight, which is really important when you’re playing in a game like this,” Sagester added.

Layne Sarver led with 20 points, Justine Finkbine 10, Wilson Suggs 7, Josh Scantland 5 points, 9 rebounds and Dalton Delong 3 points.

The Patriots improve to 24-4 and now advance to play 26-1 Antwerp the states  #2 ranked DIV team who knocked off undefeated Tiffin Calvert 52-31.  They will play next Saturday at UD Arena at 2pm in the state semi-final game.

Wilson Suggs hits a huge three-pointer in the 4th quarter while the Botkins fans pray in the background for it not to go in. (Dale Barger Photo)
Justin Finkbines defense and 10 points helped boost the Patriots to regional win over Botkins. (Dale Barger Photo)
Josh Scantland had 9 rebounds and had a couple of key buckets including a tip in at the end of the 3rd quarter. (Dale Barger Photo)
Dalton Delong hit a big triple early in the game ... but it was his steady influence running the offense and solid defense that help guid the Patriots to a win. (Dale Barger Photo)
Layne Sarver came up big with 20 points in the rematch win over defending DIV State Champions Botkins to send the Patriots to the State Final Four. (Dale Barger Photo)

Dale Barger / Sports Editor

Dale Barger is a lifelong sports enthusiast and has covered high school athletics for nearly 20 years in Southwest Ohio and now becomes sports editor for Darke County now. For 18 years Dale has been a sportswriter for The Daily Advocate and has been published in online sorts magazines and conference websites. Dale is also an accomplished photographer who has captured thousands of athletes in action over the years. Dale is a member of The Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association and was a 2019 recipient of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Southwest District Media Service Award. Dale lives on a 72-acre farm outside of New Madison, Ohio and is married to Rita Ann (Fourman) Barger and together they have two sons and three grandkids. If you don’t see Dale at a sporting event you might catch him following his other passion – photographing nature and wildlife. Contact Darke County Now Editor Media Sports Editor Dale Barger at dbarger@darkecountynow.com.

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