PITSBURG – Versailles grabbed the lead early with authority in its game at Franklin Monroe.
The Jets dusted it off and showed a little fight to grab an early second quarter lead. But Versailles surged back using full-court pressure and 18 first half points by Justin Ahrens to regain control, and the Jets never mounted another charge, falling to the Tigers 70-53.
Justin Ahrens served notice early that he could get to the rim, slashing through the Jet defense for the jam. Moments later the left-hander rose above the rim and threw one down hard with his off-hand that sparked a 7-0 start for the Tigers.
Jets coach Troy Myers’ timeout and subbing of Mason Conley had an immediate impact as the junior connected on a triple from the right corner and he added another to go along with eight first quarter points that jump started Franklin Monroe.
“Mason Conley did a really good job coming in and knocking down shots. Those are shots he’s taken before, and they haven’t gone down for him. This is just his fifth game; he’s not 16 games in like everyone else, and that’s the way he can play. He can knock those down,” Myers said.
FM senior Zach Hyre scored five points by being strong taking the ball to the rim to help offset eight first quarter points by Justin Ahrens and draw within one 15-14 to end the first quarter.
“Man, they smacked us right away with two dunks, but our kids responded, and now you’re down by one at the end of the first quarter,” Myers said.
Freshman Ethan Conley scored a hard two inside to put the Jets up for the first time 16-15 to start the second quarter, bringing the large home crowd to their feet.
The moment was fleeting and only served to energize Versailles.
The Tigers surged ahead again 37-22 at the 2:12 mark, and it wasn’t all Justin Ahrens. Despite his 10 points the Tigers had seven different players score in the second frame.
“Our press worked pretty well to give us easy transition points … but we turned around and gave it back. Coach Myers made some adjustments, and Hyre was able to get some takes to the basket … you don’t mind giving up some baskets off the press, but you don’t want to foul them when they are going to the basket,” Versailles boys basketball coach Scott McEldowney said.
Hyre scored five more points in the second quarter to help narrow the lead down to 39-28 at the half.
“Our kids are doing some things, and you think it’s going well … but then their offense, which was No. 12 tonight just got going … in my opinion when you got a guy stepping back from 17 feet off one leg, and it’s going down, well, I’m not sure what you can do. Even if you run two guys at him, he is a good enough passer to find other guys, and he found them,” Myers said.
“We gave up too many points in the first half. That’s not what we want to do,” Myers said.
Versailles team basketball was on full display in the third quarter as Austin Knapke, Jared Niekamp, Keaton McEldowney, Brett McEldowney, Alex Wendel, AJ Ahrens and Justin Ahrens all scored in the period as Versailles went into the final stanza with a 56-35 lead.
“We showed tonight how unselfish our players can be and how willing they are to make the extra pass. Sometimes it’s almost too much when you’re giving it up when you are just as open. It’s great to be unselfish … but you need to be aggressive at the same time,” Coach McEldowney said.
Franklin Monroe senior Bradey Hesler had the hot hand in the fourth quarter, scoring two triples and nine points, and Ethan Conley would add five … but not enough to overcome the 21-point deficit as Versailles walk out of the Hangar with a 70-53 win over the Jets.
Versailles was led by Justin Ahrens’ 28 points and seven other players scoring the remainder of the 42 points. The Tigers improved to 14-5 overall and play at Delphos St. John’s Friday.
“It’s great that we only have one game next week being that we are getting to the tail end. There are a few wrinkles we want to put in and some situational plays. This gives us some time to work on that … but we also need to prepare for our next (Midwest Athletic Conference) opponent Delphos St. John’s. We definitely want to get that one,” Coach McEldowney concluded.
The Jets were led by Hyre with 16 points, Mason Conley added 12 and Hesler 11. The Jets fell to 7-9 overall and will travel to Newton on Tuesday.
Franklin Monroe’s Myers was appreciative of the level of play by Versailles and at the same time optimistic about his team on how they responded and where they are trying to go.
“It’s just a level of play that we are trying to get to … we aren’t quite there yet but we’re making progress. We are gradually getting better, and I really feel that, so hopefully we can continue in some of these games we got coming up and knock some of them off,” Myers said.
“We’re coming. The way the standard is around here you don’t walk into the locker room happy with a loss … but I am happy about some schematic things that we did tonight.
“The fight was really good. We never rolled over, and the kids kept grinding, and that’s how we will get better,” Myers concluded.
The Versailles community, cheerleaders and players along with an anonymous Versailles 50/50 winner donated back their winnings, which gave the Nestor family more than $1,000.
Score by quarters:
Franklin Monroe…14…14…07…18 – 53
Versailles…………15…24…17…14 – 70
Franklin Monroe (7-9, 4-4)
Kyle Ressler 2, Mason Conley 12, Zach Hyre 16, Austin Brown 3, Ethan Conley 9, Bradey Hesler 11 – Totals 5-12-14/23 – 53
Versailles (14-5, 6-1)
Austin Knapke 7, Niekamp 7, Brett McEldowney 9, Alex Wendel 6, Justin Ahrens 28, Keaton McEldowney 6, Connor Custenborder 3, AJ Ahrens 5– Totals1-28-11/16 – 70
Franklin Monroe – 5 (M. Conley 2, Hesler 2, Hyre 1)
Versailles – 1 (McEldowney 1)