COLUMBUS – It’s a story that has been replayed year after year in the Midwest Athletic Conference.
One of the MAC’s teams doesn’t win the league title, maybe it even finishes well back in the standings, and still ends up playing for a state championship.
Versailles (23-5), which will play Ottawa-Glandorf (25-3) for the Division III boys basketball state championship on Saturday tied for fourth in the MAC this season.
Four of the Tigers’ losses came in the MAC – to St. Henry, Fort Recovery, Delphos St. John’s and Minster. Their record in their final seven regular-season games was 4-3.
Versailles beat Leavittsburg LaBrae 64-52 on Thursday in the second Division III semifinal of the day after Ottawa-Glandorf won 61-60 over Ironton.
“Once it came to the tournament it seemed like we were starting all over again,” Versailles coach Scott McEldowney said. “It’s like they say, you have to be playing your best basketball in the tournament and in this run we’re playing our best basketball.
“We didn’t expect it but we knew we were capable of it. But the way things were going in the middle of the season, I don’t know if I would have put a lot of money on it,” he said.
Versailles is led by 6-foot, 5-inch sophomore Kyle Ahrens, who averages 19.2 points and 6.4 rebounds a game. Chad Winner, a 6-4 junior, scores 14.4 points a game. Damien Richard, a 6-3 junior, scores 11.0 points a game.
Ahrens and Richard both scored 21 points against LaBrae. The Tigers jumped out to a 24-14 lead to start the game but found themselves down 37-33 at halftime when LaBrae shot 62 percent on field goals.
But when Versailles switched to a zone defense from a man-to-man, LaBrae went cold. Really cold.
In the second half, LaBrae connected on only 6 of 26 field goal attempts (23 percent).
If there was a turning point for Versailles, it might have come at the district level.
“It was probably against Stivers in the district finals. It was around that time that we started getting more high-quality games,” Ahrens said.
McEldowney said he was familiar with Ottawa-Glandorf even before Versailles began scouting the Titans in the tournament.
“Actually, thanks to WOSN, I’ve seen them quite a few times this year. They are very well coached and play extremely hard, they’re physical, they’ve got a lot of players who can put the ball in the basket. It will be a tough game,” he said..