VERSAILLES – Versailles won the Midwest Athletic Conference championship outright by throttling Minster 64-27 on Friday night in Versailles.
The Tigers finished 8-1 in MAC play this season, suffering their lone loss in overtime at Fort Recovery, to win their first league championship since the 2003-04 team went 27-1 and finished as the Division III state runner up to St. Henry.
“It feels good,” Versailles boys basketball coach Scott McEldowney said. “It’s not an easy thing to do. (We’ve had) a lot of good teams, including one that finished state runner up (in 2013). It’s always eluded us. Just says a lot about the league, just how great of competition there is night in, night out.”
The MAC championship is just the third in program history for Versailles. The Tigers won league titles in two of their first three seasons in the conference – 2002 and 2004 – but had to wait a dozen years for No. 3.
“These kids have really grown up a lot through a lot of tough games,” Coach McEldowney said of this year’s team. “That big game at Coldwater and to go up to Delphos and play as well as they did and then take care of business at home tonight against some great competition. St. Henry, Alex Wendel hits a buzzer-beater to win that one. There was some close games.”
Friday night’s game wasn’t one of those close ones as Versailles dominated Minster throughout the entire night, even though the Wildcats entered the game having won six of their last seven including big conference wins against Coldwater and Fort Recovery the last two weeks.
Versailles held Minster to just three points in the first quarter as the Tigers jumped out to a commanding 16-3 lead in the first eight minutes. Brett McEldowney drained a 3-pointer while AJ Ahrens, Justin Ahrens, Jared Niekamp and Keaton McEldowney all contributed scoring as well.
“When we did get the lead, they really had to try to turn up the heat and chase us,” Coach McEldowney said. “And I thought we did a nice job of spreading them out and being patient and working the ball in and getting that easy basket to make it a little bit easier. Sometimes people pack it in more. But we shot well early on from the outside to kind of get that lead, too. A good mixture of both. This team is capable of that.”
After struggling mightily in the first quarter, Minster started to get its offense going in the second and added 10 points to its total. But the Tigers got baskets from Alex Wendel, AJ Ahrens, Brett McEldowney, Keaton McEldowney and Connor Custenborder to increase their lead to 30-13 at halftime.
In the third quarter Minster’s offense fell apart once more as the Wildcats again scored only three points in the period. Versailles, meanwhile, had its most productive stretch of the night with Brett McEldowney, AJ Ahrens, Justin Ahrens, Austin Knapke, Keaton McEldowney and Custenborder combining for 24 points in the eight-minute period, increasing the Tiger lead to 54-16.
Versailles made 62.9 percent of its field goal attempts on the night while Minster made just 19.1 percent of its shots. Versailles also controlled the boards as the Tigers out-rebounded the Wildcats 27-19 and limited the visitors to just a single offensive rebound.
“They had an off night,” Coach McEldowney said of Minster. “They weren’t all contested, but we did a good job of mixing up the zone and the man to man, just try to keep them off-balance a little bit and rebounded pretty solid.”
With both team’s backups playing the majority of the fourth quarter, Minster outscored Versailles 11-10 in the period to make the final score 64-27.
Justin Ahrens led Versailles with a game-high 15 points on Friday. Also for the Tigers, Brett McEldowney scored 11 points, Keaton McEldowney scored 11, AJ Ahrens scored nine, Noah Richard scored five, Custenborder scored four, Niekamp scored three, Evan Hiestand scored two, Knapke scored two, and Wendel scored two.
Peter Falk was the only Minster player to score more than three points as he led the Wildcats with a team-high eight, all of which came in the first half. Also for Minster, Andrew Broering scored three points, Ben Stubbs scored three, Aaron Ernst scored two, Brett Hoelscher scored two, Isaac Schmiesing scored two, Jacob Stechschulte scored two, Conner Tumbusch scored two, Jared Huelsman scored one, Bryce Schmiesing scored one, and Jared Thobe scored one.
Versailles improved to 16-5 overall and 8-1 in the MAC with Friday’s win while Minster fell to 12-8 overall and 5-3 in the MAC.
Versailles will conclude the regular season on Saturday when it plays host to Greenville.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.