VERSAILLES — Versailles’ slide continued on Friday as the Tigers struggled to make shots and Marion Local used its combination of size and hot outside shooting to beat Versailles 62-46.
It was the fifth loss in a row overall and second Midwest Athletic Conference loss in a row for Versailles, which had started the season 9-0. Marion Local, which had lost two of its previous three games, improved to 11-2 overall and 4-0 in the MAC with the win.
Versailles missed several opportunities early in the game with missed free throws and bunny shots that rolled out of the rim, putting the Tigers in a hole that they couldn’t overcome.
“If we make our layups and keep it close in the first half, it’s a different game, I think, the second half going down the stretch,” Versailles boys basketball coach Scott McEldowney said. “But missing those and getting in a little bit of a hole just made it tough to climb out of against a really good team.”
Versailles’ only lead of the night came within the first minute on a basket by Evan Phlipot. But Marion Local put together a string of nine straight points to take a lead it held the rest of the night.
With a lineup featuring 6-foot 10-inch junior Luke Knapke, 6-foot 7-inch junior Ryan Bruns and 6-foot 6-inch senior Adam Bertke, stopping Marion Local proved to be a challenge for Versailles. Knapke and Bertke scored the first six Flyer points of the game.
“It’s a tough matchup,” McEldowney said. “There probably isn’t any, or not too many, teams in the state of Ohio that go 6-10, 6-7, 6-6. So it was a real challenge for us. We definitely wanted to speed the game up so it made us try to play a lot man to man against that size.”
And not only did Marion have the size advantage, the Flyers hit outside shots, too. Cole Griesdorn made a 3-pointer that put Marion Local up 9-2 and then added another basket while Bruns put in a free throw for a 12-4 Marion lead.
Damien Richard, Jacob Wenning and Ryan Knapke added first quarter points for Versailles, which helped the Tigers cut the deficit to 12-9 by the end of the period.
After another Griesdorn 3-pointer to start the second quarter, Richard and Jace Barga scored to cut the deficit to 15-13.
But then Marion got 3-pointers from Bertke and Dustin Seitz to begin to pull away.
“That’s pretty tough because their guards did, they shot pretty well,” McEldowney said. “Watching a lot of the tape, there’s one shooting it pretty well, but I didn’t see the rest of them kind of shoot it like they did tonight. That makes it tough.”
With Marion Local hitting shots inside and outside and Versailles struggling to get going, the Flyers increased their lead to double digits by halftime, 29-19.
“We had to play catch up a lot of the second half,” McEldowney said. “I think we had us down for like 1-for-8 or something from the free throw line and at least four (missed) pointblank ones that, not like they were tough shots, one that you’ve got to put in against a great team like that to win.”
The third quarter was more of the same as Marion Local increased its lead to 44-30.
Versailles cut the deficit to 48-40 in the fourth quarter but couldn’t get any closer as the Tigers lost 62-46.
An inability to rattle Marion Local and a lack of fast-break opportunities really hurt Versailles, McEldowney said.
“The best way to get to them like everybody does is to try to rattle them with pressure,” he said. “We were able to get a few here and there but not enough.
“We still didn’t get enough clear-cut rebounds. We could have rebounded a little better so we can get out on some fast-break baskets. We really need to get back to that. It seems like we haven’t got nearly as many transition baskets here lately.”
While Versailles has lost five games in a row, the losses have come to really good competition, McEldowney said, and often been very close.
“Really, we could have stuck the ball in the basket more tonight and made a few more free throws and this game would have been close and down to the wire,” he said. “I think it would have been anybody’s game. Last week if we hit two more baskets we win two more games instead of lose close ones, and that’s against a Tipp City team that had lost one and a team out of Missouri that’s supposed to be in the top 50 in the nation. “
The Tigers have to get back to work and find what will work for them, McEldowney said, something they have struggled to do since the loss of Kyle Ahrens to a broken leg in late December.
“We’re just now starting to get a few practices of who fits in where,” McEldowney said. “We’re trying to find the right combination of ball handling, offense, defense, size, strength. Kyle gave us all those so it just changes things quite a bit.”
Score by quarters
V 9 … 19 … 30 …. 46 - 46
ML 12 … 29 … 44 …. 62 – 62
Versailles scoring: Richard 17, Knapke 10, Phlipot 7, Barga 6, Rutschilling 3, Wenning 2, Campbell 1
Marion Local scoring: Bertke 17, Griesdorn 13, Knapke 12, Rethman 9, Bruns 5, Seitz 5, Homan 1