FORT RECOVERY — Elijah Kahlig propelled Fort Recovery to a 39-37 win against Versailles on Friday night, sinking the game-winning shot with about two seconds left to give the Tigers’ their third loss in a row.
In a battle of two teams who entered the night undefeated in Midwest Athletic Conference action, the Fort Recovery senior guard was the difference maker. Kahlig, who moved into fifth place on his school’s career scoring list on Friday, scored a game-high 20 points including 12 of the Indians’ 15 points in the second half.
Kahlig’s winning shot broke a 37-37 tie in a game that was close throughout the entire 32 minutes of play.
While the game wasn’t decided until the final seconds, Versailles boys basketball coach Scott McEldowney said Fort Recovery outworked his team throughout the contest.
“A little disappointed, though,” McEldowney said. “I thought they out-scrapped us, outhustled us. I just thought they played so much harder than we did. “
Even though McEldowney was pleased with some of his players including Damien Richard and Jacob Wenning, overall the Tigers didn’t play to their strengths or display the necessary effort, he said.
“Our kids are so much more physical than what their kids are, but their kids are able to use their bodies and body us and really bang on us when we were trying to get to the basket,” McEldowney said.
One of the frustrating things for McEldowney was that the Tigers didn’t get transition baskets, making it tough on their offense.
“We just didn’t get a lot of good ball movement,” he said. “We wasn’t able to take advantage of our size. And it seemed like, I don’t know, we got so worried about some of their pressure that we didn’t even try to get out and run. Maybe part of it is we’re tired, too. Maybe we need to go to the bench more and use some other kids, too.”
Points were hard to come by throughout the evening for both teams. Versailles was limited to just nine points in the first quarter but held Fort Recovery to 10 to keep the game close in the opening period.
Led by Richard’s eight second-quarter points, Versailles got its offense going better in the next period and tied the game up at 24-24.
Offensive contributions from Ryan Knapke, Nick Campbell and Wenning in the third quarter kept the game all tied up at 33-33 entering the final eight minutes of the game.
The game’s defensive pressure and offensive struggles were most evident in the fourth quarter when the teams combined for just 10 points.
Fort Recovery took the lead with baskets by Kahlig and Alex Kaiser, making it 37-37.
It took Versailles more than four minutes to score a fourth-quarter basket with Richard pulling Versailles within one possession. Then with less than a minute to go, the senior scored again for Versailles to tie the game at 37-37.
Fort Recovery then let the clock wind down, and Kahlig hit a jumper with less than two seconds remaining to give the Indians a 39-37 victory.
Richard led Versailles with 14 points in the loss. Also for the Tigers, Campbell scored six points, Knapke scored six, Wenning scored five, Evan Phlipot scored three, and Kyle Rutschilling scored three.
Kahlig’s game-high 20 points accounted for more than half of Fort Recovery’s offense. Also for the Indians, Kaiser scored seven points, Brandon Schoen scored six, Ben Dilworth scored four, and Derek Backs scored two.
Fort Recovery improved to 10-2 overall with the win and 4-0 in the MAC. Along with 3-0 Marion Local, the Indians are one of two unbeaten teams in league play.
After starting the season 9-0, Versailles lost its third straight game after non-conference losses to Lima Central Catholic and Tippecanoe. At 3-1 in the league, the Tigers still are one of three teams in the MAC with fewer than two conference losses, though.
Versailles returns to action Monday morning at Trent Arena in Kettering. The Tigers play Christian Brothers from St. Louis at 11:30 a.m.