VERSAILLES – Justin Ahrens became the all-time leading scorer in Versailles and Midwest Athletic Conference boys basketball history during the Tigers’ 73-46 win over Fort Recovery on Friday.
The Versailles senior drained a 3-pointer with 1:39 remaining in the first quarter to pass Versailles alumnus Kyle Gehle as the conference’s and school’s all-time leading scorer. He ended the night with 38 points to lead the Tigers to a MAC victory.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Justin Ahrens said. “It’s something I’ve really looked forward to all my life, but it’s really something along the way, and it’s not something I settled for. I’m not going to settle for this. I’m just looking to keep getting better, and I’m going to keep working. I really give credit to my teammates for helping me along this way. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them all these four years.”
Versailles coach Travis Swank said Justin Ahrens had some shooting struggles the past couple games, but he went back to the basics during practice and rediscovered his shooting stroke, which set him up for a big night on Friday.
“Yesterday in practice he shot really well for the first time in a while really,” Swank said. “I think that confidence kind of came back from seeing the ball go through the rim, and he put on a display here tonight.”
Justin Ahrens put on a show throughout the night, but he wasn’t the only Tiger with a big game against Fort Recovery. Point guard Michael Stammen, who entered the contest averaging less than 5 points a game, drained three 3-pointers on his way to 11 points.
“He’s a shooter,” Swank said. “So having him out on the floor spreads us even a little bit more. He hasn’t really made a whole heck of a lot of them this year and shot it probably as well as what he wants to, but tonight he did. That’s going to be a big feather in our cap because then people are going to have to stay close to him, which opens up the whole floor for everybody else.”
The Tigers started off strong from the outside with Justin Ahrens, Keaton McEldowney and Stammen all draining 3-pointers in the early stages of the game to put Versailles up 9-7.
Justin Ahrens then drove to the basket, scored and drew a foul. He sank the subsequent free throw, which tied Gehle with 1,744 career points. A couple minutes later he sank his second 3-pointer of the night to put the Tigers up 15-7 and pass Gehle on the all-time scoring lists.
Fort Recovery went on a 7-0 run to close the gap, but Versailles managed to hold on to the lead and finished the opening quarter up 17-14.
Stammen’s second 3-pointer of the night increased Versailles’ lead to double digits, 24-14, early in the second quarter before Fort Recovery made another run and got within 3 points at 26-23. Versailles finished the half on a 10-1 run, though, and led 36-24 entering halftime.
The third quarter was all Versailles as the Tigers outscored Fort Recovery 25-13 to go up 61-37 and end any threat of an upset.
“We really put our stamp on it there in the third quarter and kind of got the game in our favor and ended up pulling it out,” Swank said.
Versailles pulled its starters midway through the fourth quarter with the reserves coming into finish off the Tigers’ 27-point victory.
Justin Ahrens finished the night with a game-high 38 points. Also for the Tigers, Stammen scored 11 points, AJ Ahrens scored 10, McEldowney scored 8, Evan Hiestand scored 2, Carter May scored 2, and Noah Richard scored 2.
Payton Jutte led Fort Recovery with 19 points, Ryan Braun scored 11, Clay Schmitz scored 8, Derek Jutte scored 4, Cade Wendel scored 3, and Blayne Tobe scored 1.
Versailles improved to 13-1 overall and 4-0 in the MAC with Friday’s win. The Tigers have a full week off before a big weekend with games at Minster and at Russia.
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.