DAYTON – A dominating first half carried the Versailles boys basketball team to a 72-59 district championship victory over North College Hill Thursday night at the University of Dayton.
Versailles was in complete control in the first half, building a 38-24 advantage at halftime. North College Hill mounted a comeback in the second half, pulling to within 10 points in the fourth quarter, but Versailles was able to hang on to win and reach the sweet 16 of the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament.
“We just did so well in the first half defensively and offensively,” Versailles coach Travis Swank said. “But those kids are relentless from North College Hill and battled the whole time. We came luckily with a victory. Luckily we executed here in the first half so well and held them down and we were able to come out with a victory.”
Behind some hot shooting, Versailles built a double-digit lead before North College Hill made its first field goal. Connor Custenborder, Alex Wendel and Keaton McEldowney each drained 3-pointers as the Tigers went up 11-1 midway through the opening quarter.
By the end of the first quarter Versailles was up 18-6.
In the second quarter Versailles’ domination only increased. The Tigers scored 14 of the final 16 points in the first half to go into halftime up by 24 points, 38-14.
Versailles made 68 percent of its shots from the field in the first half while limiting North College Hill to just a 19 percent clip. The Tigers moved the ball well as they had 12 first half assists while the Trojans only had one.
Versailles also controlled the boards, out-rebounding North College Hill 19-11 in the first two quarters.
In the second half the tides started to turn.
In just over two minutes North College Hill cut its deficit from 24 points to 17, 42-25, prompting Versailles to use a timeout. Versailles started to settle down and at the end of the third quarter led by 15, 54-39.
Versailles had 12 turnovers on Thursday, eight of which came in the second half and helped North College Hill in its battle back into the game.
“Uncharacteristic turnovers,” Swank said. “Really we forced them ourselves, though, for the most part. We weren’t being very cautious with the ball, not being very smart with it at times. Especially when you’ve got a big lead, we talked about valuing it, and we didn’t value it in the second half.”
In the fourth quarter North College Hill continued its comeback and reduced Versailles’ lead to 10 points multiple times. However, the Trojans couldn’t get any closer and the Tigers held on to win 72-59.
Justin Ahrens led Versailles with 24 points on Thursday. Also for the Tigers, Wendel scored 11 points, Custenborder scored 10, Austin Knapke scored 10, AJ Ahrens scored 8, McEldowney scored 7, and Cole Niekamp scored 2.
Lorenzo Sparks led North College Hill with a game-high 31 points. Also for the Trojans, Charles Swain scored 10 points, Tyler Anderson scored 6, DeAirius Barker scored 6, Mi’rell Englemon scored 4, and JuAries Montgomery scored 2.
Versailles now advances to play the winner of Bethel and Roger Bacon in the regional semifinals at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Fairmont’s Trent Arena in Kettering.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.