PITSBURG – After a tightly contested first half, Versailles broke Saturday’s game open in the third quarter and went on to a 60-43 victory over Franklin Monroe.
Versailles led by just 6 points at halftime, 29-23, but outscored Franklin Monroe 15-4 in the third quarter to take a commanding lead. Strong defense and a hot hand for Justin Ahrens, who moved into second place on Versailles’ all-time scoring list, were the catalysts for the Tigers’ third quarter dominance.
“I thought they came out and punched us in the throat right away,” Franklin Monroe boys basketball coach Troy Myers said of Versailles’ third quarter performance. “Justin got a run of his own and had 12 points right away in the third quarter so now all of a sudden you go from trying to control possessions to, in four minutes amount of time, hey, we’ve got to change; our identity has to be different now.”
Justin Ahrens scored 12 of Versailles’ 15 points in the third quarter on his way to a game-high 27. A basket midway through the quarter gave him 1,667 points for his career, moving past his older brother Kyle Ahrens for second place in Versailles history behind only Kyle Gehle (1,744 career points).
“I think Kyle would first say that he wish he’d have his junior year back. He and (former Versailles coach) Scott (McEldowney) definitely would love to have that back,” Versailles coach Travis Swank said of the elder Ahrens, who missed most of his junior season with a broken leg. “But you know Justin works hard in the gym – we talk a lot about this, too – so he deserves all the accolades. He’s a tireless worker. He doesn’t get satisfied with what he’s already achieved. He wants to get better.”
With Versailles taking a double-digit lead in the third quarter, Franklin Monroe had to abandon its game plan. The Jets began the night trying to slow down the pace. Even though that’s not their usual style, Myers thought it was their best chance to upset the undefeated Tigers.
“That’s the way we prepared,” Myers said. “We only had one day to do it, but we asked our kids to do that, and I thought they did a phenomenal job. Just their patience, their execution, trying to get great shots instead of bad to good shots and I thought we did a really good job in the first half.”
Along with its patience and shot selection, Franklin Monroe also benefited from strong play by Ethan Conley in the first half. The FM junior scored 15 points in the first half to lead the Jet offense.
However, Versailles shut down Conley in the second half. The Tigers held him scoreless for the first 12 minutes of the second half and limited him to just 4 points after halftime.
“I did think in the second we kind of went away from his aggressiveness a little bit, which is probably our fault, my fault as a coach,” Myers said. “Until the fourth quarter he hadn’t scored. That’s tough because he’s got to score for us.”
Conley finished the night with a team-high 19 points. Also for the Jets, Zach Cable scored 9 points, Kyle Ressler scored 7, Parker Hesler scored 6, and Cole McGlinch scored 2.
Justin Ahrens led Versailles with his game-high 27 points. Also for the Tigers, Keaton McEldowney scored 9 points, AJ Ahrens scored 8, Carter May scored 7, Michael Stammen scored 6, Evan Hiestand scored 2, and Noah Richard scored 1.
Versailles improved to 10-0 with Saturday’s win. The Tigers will play host to Fort Loramie, who also is 10-0, on Tuesday.
Franklin Monroe, which fell to 8-4, will play host to Mississinawa Valley on Tuesday. The Jets and Blackhawks met in the Jet Holiday Tournament in late December with FM winning 74-52.
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.