By Kyle Shaner
CLAYTON – After losing to Miami East in last year’s sectional championship game, Versailles was determined to ensure it didn’t happen again this year and came through with a 54-39 victory over Dayton Christian.
Versailles will play North College Hill for a D-III district title at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at U.D. Arena.
“We were here in this situation, just about the same score going into halftime as last year as Miami East, we just talked about have we grown and have we matured, and there in the third quarter I think our kids proved it right there,” Versailles boys basketball coach Travis Swank said.
Dayton Christian provided a tough test for Versailles in Saturday’s Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament game, but after a close first half the Tigers pulled away for a 15-point victory. A mental fortitude developed in close games against teams such as Greenville, Russia and Urbana plus an all-out effort helped Versailles persevere, Swank said.
“When you know your life is on the line as far as your basketball career, you give a little bit extra,” he said. “Our kids did it tonight. We’re not promised any more from this point forward so you’ve got to make sure you go out there and earn it.”
Early on Dayton Christian matched Versailles basket for basket and then finished the opening quarter on a 5-0 run to lead 13-8.
Versailles trailed by as many as 7 points in the second quarter and was down 17-11 midway through the period when the Tigers got an emotional boost from a Justin Ahrens dunk. The junior then drained a pair of 3-pointers and his twin brother AJ Ahrens scored on a buzzer-beating put-back to give the Tigers a 21-19 lead entering halftime.
“We started to find our groove there toward the end of the second quarter,” Swank said.
In the second half Versailles was in complete control. Keaton McEldowney drilled a 3-pointer and Justin Ahrens made a quick basket to begin the third quarter, and Versailles led by two possessions or more the rest of the night. By the end of the third quarter Versailles was up by double digits, 35-24.
Versailles maintained control in the fourth quarter and increased its advantage, finishing the game with a 54-39 sectional championship victory.
“They know that if we’re going to go anywhere we’ve got to keep teams under 40,” Swank said of his team’s defense. “That’s always our goal, been the whole year, and we’re starting to do that and execute like that.”
Justin Ahrens led Versailles with a game-high 24 points.
AJ Ahrens and McEldowney each added eight points.
cruise to win
At Springfield High School, the Versailles girls basketball team continued its postseason dominance with a 72-21 win over Bethel-Tate in a D-III district final.
The Tigers, 23-3, will play Hamilton Badin in a Springfield D-III regional semifinal at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday after Badin knocked off West Liberty-Salem Saturday.
The other regional semifinals will be Summit Country Day and Baltimore Liberty Union.
Versailles came in with an average victory margin of 50 points in the postseason and had no trouble matching that Saturday.
Guard Kami McEldowney lit it up from outside, while posts Danielle Winner and Elizabeth Ording dominated in the paint.
McEldowney hit five shots from behind the arc on her way to 22 points, while Winner and Ording combined for 33 points inside — with Winner scoring 18 and Ording adding 15.