VERSAILLES — Versailles won its home opener Friday night, taking another step early in the season toward its goal of winning the Midwest Athletic Conference championship.
Versailles beat New Knoxville 67-47 Friday, leading almost the entire way as the Tigers improved to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the MAC.
While the Tigers were in control of the game throughout the night, Versailles boys basketball coach Scott McEldowney still saw room for improvement.
“I thought we played really well early on except for missing some pointblank layups,” McEldowney said. “We really thought we could take advantage of our size inside. We did a nice job of moving the ball and getting the ball inside. Uncharacteristic of us but missed some easy ones that would have even added to that total. I thought they did a great job defensively, expended a lot of energy defensively. A little disappointed how toward the tail end of the third quarter went. We lost a little bit of focus after we had that big lead, and they were able to chip into it before we kind of settled back in and got some easy baskets again.”
New Knoxville’s only lead of the game came early in the first quarter with a pair of 3-pointers from Shane Topp and Ryan Lageman. From the 6-2 deficit, Versailles went on a 10-0 run to take a lead it held the rest of the night.
Versailles led New Knoxville 17-9 at the end of the first quarter, holding the Rangers to three 3-pointers while Kyle Ahrens, Ryan Knapke, Damien Richard, Evan Phlipot and Jacob Wenning propelled the Tiger offense.
With scoring from Ahrens, Richard, Phlipot and Wenning, Versailles extended its lead in the second quarter, building a 33-18 halftime lead.
Versailles got off to a strong start in the second half with points from Phlipot, Jace Barga, Knapke and Ahrens to increase its lead even further to 44-20. But in the final minutes of the quarter, New Knoxville outscored Versailles 16-9 to make the score 53-36 through three quarters.
“Sometimes when you get up like that, you relax a little bit, and you lose a little bit of focus, and you start maybe going out of your concept because you want that big steal and that breakaway,” McEldowney said. “We just got to play within ourselves. These guys are athletic enough that all will come as long as we stay within our concepts.”
Versailles got several fast breaks in the fourth quarter, outscoring New Knoxville 14-11 in the period to win 67-47. Ahrens paced Versailles with 10 points in the quarter while Phlipot and Wenning each added two.
“They’re very unselfish, unselfish on the break,” McEldowney said of his players. “Got some nice fast breaks and always making that extra pass to get an easier one.”
Ahrens, who was limited in last week’s season opener against New Bremen because of foul trouble, led all scorers with 31 points against New Knoxville.
“I think he was happy to play a little more in a league game,” McEldowney said. “Last Friday he was in foul trouble and didn’t get a chance to play a whole lot. He hit some outside shots to get it going at first and he was able to take advantage inside, too, in the post. Played a real nice game tonight.”
Also for the Tigers, Wenning scored 12 points, Phlipot scored nine, and Barga, Knapke and Richard each added five.
Andrew Arnett led New Knoxville with 18 points as the Rangers fell to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the MAC. Also for New Knoxville, Topp scored 15 points, Jalen Fullenkamp scored seven, Lageman scored five, and Adam Howe scored two.
Winning a conference game at home was crucial to Versailles’ quest to win its first MAC title in a decade, McEldowney said.
“We’ve done really well in tournament, but that’s kind of eluded us for a while, that MAC title,” he said. “That’s a big goal for us. It’s a strong league, and we talked about you definitely got to get them at home. It’s tough on the road to go play a MAC opponent. Those are always dog fights, so you get a chance to play at home, you want to take care of business.”
Not only was it nice to get another conference win, it also was nice to return to Versailles for the first home game of the season.
“It’s nice to see the crowd,” McEldowney said. “I think everybody in the community is pretty excited about this basketball team, and we had a real good following on the road last week so I knew the crowd would be pretty good tonight.”