CLAYTON – Versailles didn’t play real well in its tournament opener on Friday but still beat Milton-Union 65-35 to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
Versailles is the top rated team in the Division III Dayton sectional, but the Tigers didn’t play like it during Friday’s game at Northmont, especially in the first half.
“Guys just weren’t ready to go mentally,” Versailles boys basketball coach Travis Swank said. “And we talked about this earlier in the week and everything and preached it and guess it didn’t settle in but hopefully it does the rest of the week as far as basketball is played between the ears for the most part. About 5 percent of it is God-given athletic ability and 95 percent of it is in between the ears. Didn’t have it there tonight. Weren’t focused, weren’t ready to go, and that’s on me. That’s not on the kids. That’s on me.”
Milton-Union, who entered Friday’s game with a 3-19 record, gave 21-1 Versailles all it could handle in the first quarter. The Bulldogs and Tigers traded the lead multiple times throughout the period, which ended with Versailles clinging to a 13-12 advantage.
“We had a lot of guys that looked tentative out there at times and not wanting to even square up and look at the basket at all,” Swank said. “We just weren’t there, weren’t ready to play.”
Following the rough first quarter Versailles led for the rest of the game. The Tigers still weren’t playing great in the second quarter, but they did enough to lead 26-19.
Austin Knapke provided a big boost off the bench as he led Versailles with 9 points in the first half, 7 of which came in the second quarter.
“I thought Austin played real well tonight,” Swank said. “He gave us some offensive punch. Especially in the first half, he was the one looking to be aggressive unlike some of the others guys that were being a little tentative out there, I thought. The ball when you’re aggressive a lot of times it rewards you, and he was.”
Out of the halftime break the Tigers were refocused and played more like their normal selves. They outscored the Bulldogs 19-6 in the third quarter to lead 45-25 and take firm control of the game.
“Wasn’t no hollering, screaming or yelling really or anything like that,” Swank said of his halftime message. “They knew what they did wrong, and we’ve got a lot of leadership, we’ve got a lot of experience in there, and they took it to heart and came out and wanted it a little bit more there in the second half.”
Versailles added to its advantage in the fourth quarter, ultimately winning by 30 points, 65-35.
“You move on the tournament, but we didn’t play very well,” Swank said. “Just plain and simple as that.”
AJ Ahrens and Justin Ahrens led Versailles with 14 points each on Friday. Also for the Tigers, Knapke scored 13 points, Alex Wendel scored 10, Keaton McEldowney scored 6, Connor Custenborder scored 4, Sam Barga scored 2, and Kyle Jones scored 2.
Zach Vagedes led Milton-Union with 9 points. Also for the Bulldogs, Blake Ullery scored 8 points, Daniel Albaugh scored 6, Blake Smith scored 6, Ryan Moore scored 2, William Morris scored 2, Keagan Crosby scored 1, and A.J. Lovin scored 1.
Versailles now advances to play Greenon at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Northmont in the second round of the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament.
“Good thing to get it out of our system right now because we’ve got to go back and play on Tuesday night and give it another shot,” Swank said.
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.