VERSAILLES – Three starters return for the Versailles boys basketball team this season as the Tigers look to defend their Midwest Athletic Conference championship.
Versailles has some big offensive weapons as its three returning starters were the Tigers’ leading scorers last year. Justin Ahrens led the team with 23.4 points per game, his twin brother AJ Ahrens was second with 10.1 points per game, and Keaton McEldowney was third on the team with 8.4 points per game. Those three are now seniors as is Versailles’ fourth returning varsity letterman, Kyle Jones.
While Versailles has some strong players returning, it also has some big holes to fill. The Tigers lost Sam Barga, Connor Custenborder, Austin Knapke and Alex Wendel to graduation and lost Cole Niekamp as he gave up basketball this year to focus on baseball and his future collegiate baseball career.
To replace those players, Jones is projected to move into a starting guard spot alongside McEldowney and junior Evan Hiestand is projected to move into a starting forward spot alongside AJ Ahrens. Justin Ahrens, an Ohio State commit, can play a number of positions including guard or forward.
Senior guard/forward Noah Richard and junior forward Carter May also could work their way into the starting lineup for Versailles or play key roles off the bench.
Junior guard Andrew DeMange and sophomore guard Michael Stammen also will be key contributors coming off the bench for Versailles.
Rounding out the varsity roster, Versailles has sophomore Ryan Martin, sophomore Dakoda Naftzger and sophomore Austin Toner.
With several new players to incorporate this season, Versailles is working to get players up to speed on learning the offense and offensive sets along with improving its team chemistry. Swank sees ball movement, team speed and team defense as strengths of this year’s team.
Last year Versailles went undefeated in the MAC then reached the regional semifinals of the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament, losing to eventual state runner-up Roger Bacon to finish the season with a 25-2 record.
The Tigers expect to have another strong season this year and will garner statewide attention as a contender for the Division III championship.
“Our goal is to compete for a MAC title and make a long run in the tournament,” 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.