VERSAILLES – Versailles’ Justin Ahrens and Fort Loramie’s Evan Berning are good friends. When not playing XBox, they’re often in a gymnasium playing one-on-one or doing drills with each other.
With all the time they’ve spent together, Berning knows how Ahrens plays as good or better or anyone else. Berning used that knowledge on Tuesday night to put on one of the biggest defensive performances of his life. And with under five seconds left in overtime, he hit one of the biggest shots of his life.
Fort Loramie saw a 10-point lead evaporate in the second half of a non-conference game at Versailles on Tuesday but scored the last 5 points to earn a 48-46 overtime win in front of sold-out crowd of over 2,200.
The Tigers led 46-43 after Carter May and Noah Richard each hit a free throw with under 40 seconds left. After Richard’s foul shot with 13 seconds left, Fort Loramie got the ball back down the court and to Berning on the right wing. Berning hit a 3-pointer nothing-but-net with three seconds left.
Versailles coach Travis Swank called a timeout shortly after the tying 3. The team had used all its timeouts, though, which resulted in a technical foul being called.
Fort Loramie senior guard Dillon Braun hit two foul shots with 0.9 seconds left to lift the team to the win.
“I felt a little bit of nerves coming in, but I didn’t think much about it,” Braun said. “They kept delaying the game (after Versailles called the timeout), and in my head, I calmed down and just knew it was going to come. I got on the line and buried it. …It’s great seeing the Loramie organization get up on their feet and just cheer.”
The win couldn’t have been possible without Fort Loramie holding Ahrens, an Ohio State recruit, to a season-low 12 points. Ahrens struggled to get shots and offensive rebounds against Berning and a swarming Fort Loramie defense.
“He’s a really good shooter,” Berning said of Ahrens. “You’ve got to make him put it on the floor. You can’t let him set-shoot. Luckily he missed a lot of shots tonight. If he gets a couple of those going, it could have been totally different.”
Fort Loramie coach Corey Britton credited Berning for the defensive effort and for Loramie’s other players for helping when Ahrens shot or fought for rebounds.
“Our help-side defense was fantastic,” Britton said. “They set a ton of screens from him and we talked, but we talked and communicated and were able to fight through things and played hard, man defense.”
Keaton McEldowney hit a basket with 2:46 left in overtime then Ahrens scored a basket with 1:23 left to give the Tigers a 44-40 lead. A free throw by Berning with 1:08 left and a basket by Nick Brandewie 18 seconds pulled the Redskins within 44-43 in the final minute.
May and Richard’s free throws boosted Versailles’ lead to 3 points before the team’s disastrous final 13 seconds.
“We lost contain,” Swank said. “It looked like to me initially – and I’ll have to go back and look at the tape – but AJ (Ahrens) wasn’t guarding Berning in that situation, but he got stuck on him. We were kind of frazzled a little bit. He got open because we were trying to get back to our man and nailed the shot. I called the timeout and got the technical, so it is what it is. I’ll take the blame for it because I’m the one that did it.”
Braun led Fort Loramie with 16 points while Tyler Siegel finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. Brandewie added 9 and Berning scored 8 points in addition to five assists.
AJ Ahrens led Versailles with 21 points while Justin Ahrens scored 12.
The Tigers lost possession with 28.8 seconds left in the fourth after a five-second violation. AJ Ahrens stole the ball away from Berning with about 10 seconds left but missed a layup. After a failed put-back attempt by Justin Ahrens, Fort Loramie came away with the ball with 0.8 seconds left. After a couple of timeouts, Braun missed a desperation shot at the buzzer.
AJ Ahrens hit consecutive 3-pointers over a 40-second stretch to give Versailles a 36-35 lead with 5:24 left in the fourth quarter. The Tigers’ lead got as big as 3 points, but Fort Loramie battled back.
After AJ Ahrens made a basket to put the Tigers up 40-37 with 3:22 left, Evan Berning made a free throw with 2:48 left and a basket in the paint a minute later to tie the score.
Braun scored three baskets in the paint in the first two minutes of the third quarter to extend Fort Loramie’s lead to 26-16. Versailles quickly cut into the lead with a big performance by AJ Ahrens and Justin Ahrens. The duo combined to score the next 5 points to pull Versailles within 26-21.
After Fort Loramie scored on a jumper by Austin Siegel, Justin Ahrens made a free throw and a layup to shrink the lead to 28-24. May then hit a basket with 1:31 left and AJ Ahrens followed with a basket off the glass on a drive with 22 seconds left to tie the score.
Siegel scored two free throws with eight seconds left in the third and then opened the fourth with a basket in the paint to give Fort Loramie a 32-28 lead. Brandewie hit a 3-pointer to extend Loramie’s lead to 35-30 with 6:18 left in the fourth, but AJ Ahrens’ 3s over the next minute put Versailles ahead.
The Redskins led 20-14 at the first half. Both teams struggled shooting in half, and the Tigers were hampered by committing 11 turnovers while Fort Loramie had one.
AJ Ahrens hit a basket on a drive with 2:57 left in the first quarter to tie the game 5-5, but Siegel made a basket on a drive and Brandewie made two free throws to give the Redskins a 9-5 lead.
The Tigers opened the second quarter on a 7-0 run to take a 12-9 lead. AJ Ahrens hit two free throws with 7:06 left then Justin Ahrens hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 6:30 left and followed 40 seconds later with a basket in the paint.
Fort Loramie quickly reclaimed the lead. After AJ Ahrens scored a basket off the glass with 4:18 left to give Versailles a 14-13 lead, Braun scored a basket 20 seconds later to put the Redskins ahead. Nathan Raterman hit a 3 from the left wing with 3:43 left to increase the lead to 18-14.
Neither team scored again until the closing seconds of the quarter. After two missed Fort Loramie shots, Brandewie made a tip-in at the buzzer to extend the lead to 6.
Fort Loramie (11-0, 5-0 Shelby County Athletic League) hosts Anna on Friday.
Versailles (10-1, 3-0 Midwest Athletic Conference) travels to Marion Local on Friday.