VERSAILLES – Versailles came back from a 10-point deficit in the first half, but could not overcome a 13-point deficit in the second half in falling to visiting non-league foe Lima Central Catholic on Tuesday night, 69-56.
The Tigers found themselves in an early 13-3 hole in the first quarter, but rallied largely behind 18 points from sophomore guard Michael Stammen to lead the Thunderbirds 32-26 at halftime. However, Stammen was held scoreless until late in the fourth quarter as the Thunderbirds outscored the Tigers 16-0 over a four-plus minute stretch to surge back in front to stay in the third quarter.
Versailles did get back to within four points in the early going of the fourth quarter behind an 8-0 run all by Evan Hiestand, but could get no closer as Lima Central Catholic closed out the final minutes for their eighth win of the season.
“We did a fairly good job keeping them in front and making them take longer and tougher shots but I’ll bet they had 40 some points just off fast breaks so we have to clean that up,” Versailles coach Travis Swank said. “We did a fairly good job keeping them in front and making them take longer and tougher shots, but I’ll bet they had 40 some points just off fast breaks so we have to clean that up.
“We can’t turn the ball over in key situations,” he continued. “They were doubling (Michael) Stammen a lot and getting the ball out of his hands. He was shooting the ball from the free throw line a lot and was pretty aggressive, but we have to have others guys step up and handle the ball and handle the pressure.”
Lima Central Catholic coach Frank Kill said among his second half objectives was to take the ball out of Stammen’s hands and the Thunderbirds were successful in that as Stammen didn’t score until 13 seconds left in the game when it was out of reach for the Tigers. Stammen had a game-high 21 points. Kill also knew his team needed to clamp down on Versailles senior Evan Hiestand, but Hiestand made that a much more difficult challenge as he scored 10 of his 14 total points in the second half including an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter that got his team to within four points of the Thunderbirds (54-50).
“(Evan) Hiestand is a great senior player that steps up when he needs to like in the fourth quarter,” Kill said. “And with a guy like him you can’t really match his physicality. We had to do a better job on the ball. Stammen and Hiestand compliment each other so well and we were trying to get the ball out of Stammen’s hands so we had to focus on him and the big guy down below. Once we were able to do that I thought we had the game in control.”
“I thought Evan had a really good spurt for us there in the fourth quarter at crunch time,” Swank said. “We got it down the floor and then we have a silly mistake – a turnover here and we can’t get a stop down there. Really we got outhustled for just the second time all year. I felt like we were outhustled in the Loramie game and tonight as well. You know I like our kids heart. I will never take that away from them. They have played hard all year long, but tonight we just didn’t have our juice. They had more than what we did so that is a credit to LCC.
“It takes a lot out of you when you are down 10 and comeback and then down 13 and come back,” he continued. “Like we said we need other guys to step up and handle the ball better and make better decisions. Michael (Stammen) is our primary ball handler and he has to do things better with the ball as well, but other guys too have to make better decisions. That’s on me to put them in better positions and making them work a little bit harder in practice so that we don’t make the same mistakes again.”
Kill praised his guys for stepping up in the second half, particularly the third quarter.
“We knew defensively we were going to have to pick things up in the third quarter,” Kill said. “We did a great job of getting the ball inside and Tre Garner really kind of exploded for us because with him in foul trouble in the first half we weren’t able to utilize him. Defensively that is probably the best we’ve played all year in terms of having an explosion like that and being able to feed of our defense. We really enjoy transition basketball and tonight was a night where that was really exposed.”
Garner led the Tunderbirds with 14 points followed by Jay Riepenhoff with 12.
Versailles returns to action on Friday at St. Henry in a Midwest Athletic Conference showdown.
“We have another tough team up next in St. Henry,” Swank said. “Our schedule is not light and we like it that way because it helps us prepare for the tournament. They are one of the top teams in the MAC. A lot of people predicted them to be one of the top teams in the MAC, and going over there is never an easy place to play. It is one of the hardest environments to play in the MAC so we are going to have to be ready to go.”
Score by quarters
Lima Central Catholic^20^6^26^17^-^69
Lima Central Catholic – Biggz Johnson 5 4 14, Jeremy Allen 1 0 2, Nate Stolly 3 1 9, Dominic Riepenhoff 3 2 8, Shaun Thomas 3 2 9, Rossy Moore 0 1 1, Jay Riepenhoff 4 4 12, De’Montre Garner 7 0 14. Totals: 26 14 69.
Versailles – Michael Stammen 5 8 21, Ryan Martin 4 1 9, Connor VanSkyock 1 0 3, Cody Naftzger 3 0 7, Evan Hiestand 4 6 14, Austin Toner 1 0 2. Totals: 18 15 56.
3-pointers – LCC 3 (Stolly 2, Thomas 1), Versailles 5 (Stammen 3, VanSkyock 1, Naftzger 1).
Records: Lima Central Catholic (8-6), Versailles (8-5)
The Daily Advocate sports editor Skip Weaver can be reached at (937) 569-4316 or by email at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @skipweaver65.