Versailles boys cruise into sectional finals

By Kyle Shaner

CLAYTON – Led by Justin Ahrens’ 38 points the Versailles boys basketball team beat Greenon 89-36 in the second round of the Northmont D-III sectional tournament Tuesday night.

Versailles will play Dayton Christian for the sectional title at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Versailles junior was in the groove Tuesday night as he drained eight 3-pointers, just one off the single game school record set by Jason Shardo during the 1999-2000 season.

“He works extremely hard,” Versailles coach Travis Swank said. “He’s probably our hardest worker on the team, and he deserves all the accolades that he gets. I wish I could have gotten him that record.”

And it wasn’t just Justin Ahrens who excelled Tuesday night. After being disappointed in the Tigers’ play in their tournament opener on Friday against Milton-Union, Swank was thrilled by their performance against Greenon.

“A lot more effort, a lot more intensity out there,” he said. “We practiced really well on Saturday and Monday, and it makes a difference. You could see the energy level was a little bit up, the kids were ready to play, and it doesn’t hurt when you shoot the ball like we shot the ball here tonight.”

As a team Versailles made 13 3-pointers beginning with one from Keaton McEldowney less than 30 seconds into the game. Connor Custenborder also made a 3-pointer and Justin Ahrens drained his first two of the night as the Tigers built a 25-10 first quarter lead.

Justin Ahrens made three more 3-pointers in the second quarter as he finished the first half with 21 total points. McEldowney and Austin Knapke also drained triples in the period to help increase the Versailles lead to 51-24 at halftime.

The highlight of the night for Greenon, which never led Tuesday night, came when Keegan Flanegin drained a buzzer beater right before halftime.

“Little lapses here and there in the defensive effort, and they had a three-quarter shot at the end of the half,” Swank said. “We’ll clean it up as best we can. Pretty happy. The third quarter effort on defense was tremendous, the whole second half really. Defensive intensity was awesome.”

After allowing 24 points in the first half Versailles’ defense clamped down and only allowed 12 in the entire second half.

Justin Ahrens hit two more 3-pointers in the third quarter as the Tigers increased their advantage to 71-30. The Ohio State commit made his final 3-pointer in the fourth quarter before sitting for the final 5:19 of the game.

Even with the backups on the court, Versailles still kept Greenon in check and finished off the 89-36 victory.

Justin Ahrens led Versailles with his game-high 38 points. Also for the Tigers, McEldowney scored 15 points, Knapke scored 11, Custenborder scored 7, Kyle Jones scored 4, Cole Niekamp scored 4, Alex Wendel scored 4, AJ Ahrens scored 2, Sam Barga scored 2, and Ryan Martin scored 2.

Riley Williams led Greenon with 12 points. Also for the Knights, Flanegin scored 6 points, Austin Swope scored 5, Logan Coppock scored 4, Owen Leathley scored 3, Jake Richards scored 3, Jay Ford scored 2, and Cooper Chaffin scored 1.

Versailles now advances to play Dayton Christian, who beat Greeneview 46-32 Tuesday night, at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Northmont in the sectional championship game.

“I’m pretty impressed with them,” Swank said of Dayton Christian. “I’ve seen them twice now live. They’ve got length. They’ve got athleticism. They play a little bit different style of defense than what we’re accustomed to, a lot of switching. So we’ve got our hands full. They’re a really good team.”