VERSAILLES – Justin Ahrens scored 36 points Saturday night, including the 1,000th of his high school career, to lead the Versailles boys basketball team to a 73-56 win against Franklin Monroe.
The Versailles junior, who is verbally committed to play college basketball for The Ohio State University, drained a pair of free throws with 3:39 remaining to give him 34 points for the game and 1,000 for his career. He added 2 more points before the game ended to finish the night with 1,002 career points.
“Justin had 36 tonight,” Franklin Monroe boys basketball coach Troy Myers said. “I don’t know what else you can do. You can run guys at him, you can do junk defense, but that kid can play. There’s a reason why he probably signed before his junior year. I mean y’all ain’t dumb, right? He had a heck of a night, and that kid’s a good player.”
Though it was a big night for Justin Ahrens and Versailles, it was Franklin Monroe that set the tone early on.
“I don’t think the first quarter we really did a very good job of matching their intensity,” Versailles coach Travis Swank said. “They came out fired up, ready to beat us, and we just kind of threw the ball around, real lazy with the ball at times.”
The Tigers found themselves in an unfamiliar position as the Jets led 14-12 at the end of the first quarter.
“I told our kids coming up here that whoever is more prepared is going to set the tone, and I really feel like we were more prepared, and we did set the tone,” Myers said. “We missed four free throws early. Was able to get to the line and just, you know, we didn’t connect. Those are big free throws when you’re in a possession ball game so you go from a 2-point lead in the first quarter to maybe a 6- or an 8-point lead and all of a sudden you’re playing with a little bit of an edge. Those are opportunities that we missed, but our kids were super locked in, man. They were not worried. There was no tension in our locker room.”
Versailles made some adjustments and took control in the second quarter, outscoring Franklin Monroe 23-11 to go into halftime up 35-25.
The Tigers led throughout the entire second half. They led 54-43 at the end of the third quarter and then started to pull away in the fourth quarter.
With Versailles leading 67-51 with less than four minutes remaining, Justin Ahrens stepped up to the free throw line and sank two shots to give his 1,000 career points.
“He’s been the gym, I don’t know, since he’s been out of the crib,” Swank said. “I really don’t know. He’s always got a ball in his hand, and he works on his craft all of the time. When you do that stuff you get accolades like that. It’s a testament to his hard work and dedication to the game.”
Justin Ahrens finished the night with his game-high 36 points in the 73-56 Versailles victory.
“A lot of offensive firepower out there tonight from both squads,” Swank said. “Not what we want to do defensively – that’s for sure – give up 56 points, but the kids kind of gutted it out. A lot of good things to say about FM’s program and how hard they played tonight, but you know I think we didn’t quite match their intensity and play as good as what we’re capable of.”
Along with Justin Ahrens’ 36, Versailles got 12 points from AJ Ahrens, 11 from Alex Wendel, 10 from Austin Knapke, 2 from Connor Custenborder, and 2 from Keaton McEldowney.
Ethan Conley led Franklin Monroe with 28 points. Also for the Jets, Kameron Thurmond scored 10 points, Mason Conley scored 8, Parker Hesler scored 6, and Kyle Ressler scored 4.
Along with leading FM in scoring, Ethan Conley also was given the tough assignment of guarding Justin Ahrens.
“Ethan is becoming a man because he wants to defend,” Myers said. “He told us yesterday ‘I want to guard, Justin Ahrens,’ and he wasn’t shy about it. He did get 36 – he’s probably not proud of that – but I’m proud of his effort and his willingness to step forward and do something like that; he’s a sophomore. And so I’m going to lose with guys like that. You know, tonight like we lost, but I’m going to lose with guys like that. And it wasn’t just Ethan tonight. Collectively if you saw me at the end of the game bring our guys together it was to tell them that this is a group I’ll lose with because y’all fought your tails off tonight.”
Versailles improved to 9-1 with Saturday’s win while Franklin Monroe fell to fell to 7-3. The Jets will play at Mississinawa Valley on Tuesday while the Tigers will travel to Fort Loramie on Tuesday.
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.