KETTERING – The 16th annual Flyin’ to the Hoop basketball invitational has become one of the top two venues in the country to watch some of the best high school basketball teams and players in the country.
This year the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III Versailles Tigers took on the Division I Sidney Yellow Jackets, two local teams no more than 20 miles apart who didn’t have to travel in from Texas or California and both featuring their own highly regarded players basketball fans want to see.
It was a matchup between the highly skilled Ohio State-bound Justin Ahrens from Versailles and an extremely athletic Andre Gordon from Sidney who is being looked at for both football and basketball by Ohio State.
Unfortunately, that matchup didn’t materialize in the early going as Gordon picked up two quick fouls and spent part of the first quarter and much of the second on the pine.
Versailles went up 14-9 in the first quarter, much to the relief of Versailles boys head coach Travis Swank.
“We came out focused and ready to go. You never really know how you’re going to play on a Sunday because it never usually happens so I was a little nervous about what our mentality and focus would be, and fortunately our kids were ready to go,” Swank said.
“We moved the ball so well in the first quarter and got some easy scores that helped settle us down in the early going,” Swank said.
Versailles opened up its offense scoring 25 points in the second quarter, and although Justin Ahrens struggled from beyond the arch, he showed he has other tools in his arsenal that can help his team put points on the board.
He showed he can score on the move without the ball, off the dribble, on pull-up jumpers, off the baseline fade or at the rim. He literally picked apart the Sidney defense by either drawing defenders and dishing or getting the ball off the glass and leading the break up the floor where he found guys to finish in helping the Tigers to a 39-21 advantage at the break.
Justin scored 15 in the first half and twin brother AJ Ahrens 10, including two triples.
The Tigers expanded their lead to 44-25 for the largest lead in the game on a Michael Stammen triple early in the third quarter.
Then Sidney woke up spearheaded by the emergence of Gordon. The Sidney junior with just 4 points in the first half scored 16 in the second half, and when he finished a two-handed reverse jam to showcase his incredible talent, he had pulled the Jackets to within 8 points, trailing 52-44.
“We knew we couldn’t completely take him away (Gordon) because he is such a tremendous athlete,” Swank said. “He got in foul trouble early in the game, and it took them (Sidney) out of their offensive rhythm in the first half.
“We tried to make him take tough shots and force him to take a lot long shots and not allow him to get to the rim as much as he is accustomed … but you knew he was going to get some,” Swank added.
However, Sidney would get no closer as the Tigers showed they have other guys who can make plays and hurt you.
Keaton McEldowney halted the Sidney run on a hard and-one … and just to prove how tough he was he followed it up with another, only this time he took a full blow from Devan Rogers, all 275 pounds of him … and yet he managed to finish and still knock down the free throw and the Tigers led 59-48.
“That’s what Keaton does. He gets up and down the floor so well he can finish around the rim because he jumps so well even though he is only 5-10 and we need him to do that,” Swank said.
“We need that third consistent scorer for this team. Today it was Keaton, and hopefully he can continue to do that because then we become an even tougher matchup for other teams,” Swank continued.
Versailles would go on to win the premiere showcase by the score of 65-50.
Justin Ahrens led the way with 26 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. McEldowney added 14 points and AJ Ahrens had 12 points and seven rebounds in the win.
“It’s always good to have your kids exposed to a venue like this. It was a great environment and great atmosphere, and it will serve us well down the road. You don’t want your kids to have stage fright, and if we are fortunate enough to advance to the regionals we’ll have a game under our belt in this arena, which is why I was happy to see us respond well to being here in front of a large crowd like this,” Swank concluded.
Versailles improved to 11-1 overall and will travel to Lima to play Lima Central Catholic on Tuesday.
Score by quarters
SID….. 09 … 12 … 17 … 12 – 50
VER … 14 … 25 … 13 … 13 – 65
Versailles – Justin Ahrens 26, Keaton McEldowney 14, Michael Stammen 6, Evan Hiestand 7, AJ Ahrens 12; Totals 6-21-5/11 – 65
Sidney – Darren Taborn 2, Keith Lee 4, Ratez Roberts 12, Andre Gordon 20, Trey Wentz 3, Devan Rogers 9; Totals 1-21-5/9 – 50
Versailles 43, Sidney 33