By Rob Kiser
Piqua Daily Call
DAYTON — The Versailles boys basketball team just finds a way to get it done.
So, why should the Division III district final game at U.D. Arena Sunday have been any different?
The Tigers jumped out to a 13-0 lead, then had to erase a deficit in the fourth quarter before winning 47-44 over Reading.
Versailles, 15-10, will play Purcell-Marian- at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Trent Arena in a D-III regional semifinal.
Reading closes at 18-7.
“We are not the prettiest girl at the ball,” Versailles coach Travis Swank said. “But, we are still dancing.”
For senior Evan Hiestand, who held up the district championship trophy as the fans cheered afterwards, it was a very rewarding moment.
“It means a lot,” Hiestand said. “Because, I don’t think a whole lot of people expected this from us this year.”
And after Michael Stammen hit two free throws with 21.4 seconds to go to give Versailles a 47-44 lead, Swank called timeout.
“We talked about what we wanted to do,” Swank said. “Did we want to foul them? We decided just to play tight one them. Our defense has been a strength of ours all year.”
And it was again as Reading never even got a shot off.
“We just smothered them,” Swank said.
The Blue Devils tried to no avail to find a shot before stepping out of bounds with 2.1 seconds remaining.
“Our defense is something we put a priority on,” Hiestand said.
Swank called another timeout before the inbounds.
The Tigers lobbed it long and while the ball was batted away from Hiestand, the clock ran out and the Tigers celebrated.
“We wanted to get it into Michael (Stammen) and have them foul him,” Swank said. “If that wasn’t here, lob it towards the basket and have the clock run out, which is what happened.”
It didn’t look like it was going to go to the wire early.
Versailles charged out to a 13-0 lead before Reading’s Brandon Ross hit a three at the 2:08 mark to get the Blue Devils on the board.
Stammen dished it inside to Ryan Martin to start the games scoring, then Stammen drilled a three. Hiestand and Austin Toner added four points each.
“We brought the intensity early,” Stammen said with a smile.
“But, Reading settled down and when Ross hit a three at the halftime buzzer, the Blue Devils were within 22-19.
“It is hard to keep that kind of momentum going,” Swank said. “Reading is a good team. They have won 18 games for a reason.”
The second half was a battle all the way.
With the game tied at 35 late in the quarter, Toner came up with two big offensive rebounds.
The first off a missed free throws, led to Toner throwing to Hiestand for a basket. The second, just before the buzzer, led to a putback to give Versailles a 39-35 advantage going to the fourth quarter.
“Austin (Toner) is coming on and he still has another year,” Swank said. “I told him he had to own the glass today and he affected a lot of Reading’s shots inside.”
Ross scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to give Reading it only lead of 41-39, before Versailles answered with six straight.
Stammen hit two free throws to tie it, Dakoda Naftzger scored off a Hiestand assist and Hiestand scored at the 3:16 mark to make it 45-41.
AJ Brown hit one free throw and Ross added two to get Reading within 45-44 with 32.2 seconds to go before Versailles did what they do, finishing off the win.
“We have played great competition all year,” Stammen said about the Tigers being battle tested. “We play in the MAC and we played teams like Vandalia-Butler and Chaminade-Julienne.”
“I know people tend to think of the MAC as a football conference,” he said. “But, top to bottom, I think it is as good as any around (in basketball).”
And the formula for success was simple.
“I know we didn’t shoot our free throws very well and we had more turnovers,” Swank said. “But, I thought our defense was the difference. We tried to force guys to shoot shots they didn’t want to shoot.”
Stammen had 14 points, five rebounds and three assists for the Tigers, while Hiestand had 12 points and eight rebounds to go with three blocked shots and two steals.
Toner had nine points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots, while Naftzger had eight points and five rebounds.
Ross had 23 points and four steals for the Blue Devils, while Brown added 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
Don’nek Patterson had seven points, while Gabe Van Skaik had three steals.
Versailles was 17 of 29 from the floor for 59 percent, including two of four from long range for 50 percent. The Tigers were 11 of 19 from the line for 58 percent.
Reading was 16 of 45 from the floor for 36 percent, including four of 12 from 3-point range for 33 percent. The Blue Devils made eight of nine free throws for 89 percent.
Versailles won the battle of the boards 28-17, but had 18 turnovers to Reading’s nine.
Versailles outscored Reading 28-20 in the paint, but the Blue Devils had a 16-10 advantage on points off turnovers, 9-6 edge on second-chance points and outscored the Tigers bench 7-0. Both teams scored six points on fast breaks.
“I am really proud of these kids,” Swank said. “We had one senior coming back and another kid with experience. Nobody was expecting us to to this. These kids have worked their butts off.”
And while it may not always be pretty, the Tigers are still dancing.
AJ Brown 5-1-12, Brandon Ross 8-5-23, Gabe Van Skaik 0-0-0, TJ Manning 1-0-2, Nash Morgan 0-0-0, Allijah Vaught 0-0-0, Don’nek Patterson 2-2-7, Cole Baker 0-0-0. Totals: 16-8-44.
Michael Stammen 3-7-14, Ryan Martin 2-0-4, Dakoda Naftzger 2-3-8, Evan Hiestand 6-0-12, Austin Toner 4-1-9, Nate Johnson 0-0-0, Connor VanSkyock 0-0-0. Totals: 17-11-47.
Score By Quarters
Reading 5 19 35 44
Versailles 16 22 39 47
Records: Reading 18-7, Versailles 15-10.