KETTERING — The Versailles boys basketball team exceeded expectations all season.
And while the Tigers had their tournament run end with a 52-37 loss to Cincinnati Purcell-Marian Wednesday on the Trent Arena floor in the D-III regional semifinals, the 15-11 Tigers did it again.
“One of the things we talked about Sunday (after the district final win) was getting better every game,” Versailles coach Travis Swank said. “And we did that again tonight.”
Versailles matched the Cavaliers point-for-point in the first half and walked off the floor.
Evan Hiestand scored at the first quarter buzzer to get Versailles within 10-0 and Michael Stammen opened the second quarter with a three to put Versailles up 12-10.
While a 3-pointer late in the half by Jared Baldock gave Purcell-Marian a 23-17 lead, Versailles came right back.
Stammen hit two free throws and Nate Johnson buried a three at the first-half buzzer to cut the deficit to 23-22.
“I think we caught them (Purcell-Marian) a little off guard,” Swank said. “And our kids work so hard out there and play with so much heart.”
Unfortunately, the second half was a different story.
Versailles had turnovers on six of its first seven possessions —- after having just five turnovers in the opening half — and the Cavaliers scored the first 14 points of the second half, before Stammen hit back-to-back threes in the final two minutes of the third quarter.
“We struggled a little bit at the start of the third quarter,” Swank said. “We had some turnovers and we had too many empty possessions. We had about a three-minute stretch where we couldn’t get a defensive rebound and ultimately that ended up being the difference.”
The Tigers trailed 39-28 after three quarters and could never get any closer, despite a phenomenal game by Stammen.
He had 11 of Versailles 15 points in the final two quarters, while Ryan Martin had the other four.
Stammen hit four of seven 3-pointers in the game, made seven of eight free throw attempts and finished with 21 points. And despite being the main ball handler against Purcell-Marian’s pressure, he committed just four turnovers.
“I trust Michael (Stammen) a lot,” Swank said. “We don’t take that (the point) away from him too much. I trust him with everything I have. And people don’t understand how much that takes out of your legs (handling the point). He shot the ball really well.
“I think he is one of the best point guards around and really underrated.”
Martin had eight points, while Evan Hiestand scored five and Austin Toner grabbed six rebounds.
Javonta Lyons led Purcell-Marian with 16 points and five rebounds.
AJ Garrett had eight points and nine rebounds, while Bryan Warah had nine points and seven rebounds.
Alex Dotson and Baldock both scored seven points.
Versailles was 10 of 28 from the floor for 36 percent, including six of 13 from 3-point range for 46 percent. The Tigers converted 11 of 16 free throws for 69 percent.
Purcell-Marian made 18 of 39 shots from the floor for 46 percent, including two of five from long range for 40 percent. The Cavaliers made 14 of 21 free throws for 67 percent.
Purcell-Marian won the battle of the boards 28-19 and outscored Versailles 13-2 on second-chance points.
The Cavaliers had 10 turnovers to Versailles’ 16 and outscored the Tigers 17-0 off turnovers.
Purcell-Marian outscored Versailles bench 12-6 and scored 12 points in the paint to Versailles’ six.
But, Swank knew the Tigers made their fans proud as they had all season.
“We lost a strong core of players off last year’s team,” Swank said. “Given what a lot of people’s expectations were coming into the season, these kids far exceeded that. And I am sure our fans appreciate that. But, we can’t be satisfied with that next year. We are a young team with a lot of talent coming back.”
And as this group showed all season, they just keep getting better.
Michael Stammen 5-7-21, Ryan Martin 3-1-8, Dakota Naftzger 0-0-0, Evan Hiestand 1-3-5, Austin Toner 0-0-0, Nate Johnson 1-0-3, Connor VanSkyock 0-0-0, Ben Ruhenkamp 0-0-0, Jared DeMange 0-0-0, Hunter Trump 0-0-0, Eli McEldowney 0-0-0, Wesley Bruns 0-0-0. Totals: 10-11-37.
AJ Garrett 4-0-8, Alex Dotson 3-0-7, Javonta Lyons 6-4-16, Jared Baldock 1-4-7, Michael Little 1-0-2, Clarke Jefferson 0-3-3, Zach Hoover 0-0-0, Bryan Warah 3-3-9, Jeremiah Jackson 0-0-0. Totals: 18-14-52.
3-point field goals — Versailles: Stammen (4), Martin, Johnson. Purcell-Marian: Dotson, Baldock.
Score By Quarters
Versailles 9 22 28 37
Purcell-Marian 10 23 39 52
Records: Versailles 15-11, Purcell-Marian 23-4.
Piqua Daily Call Sports Editor Rob Kiser can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org