Versailles has taken its boys high school basketball game to the next level.
Fueled by junior and Ohio State University commit Justin Ahrens, the Midwest Athletic Conference champs (23-1) are in a loaded Division III Southwest District. Other top contenders are Cincinnati Summit Country Day (23-0) and Cincinnati Roger Bacon (20-4) of the GCL Co-Ed Central, which has been in the state final four twice in the last three seasons.
All three programs will be favored to make the regional semifinals.
BOYS SCHEDULE: Sectional, district
Top-seeded Versailles will play Dayton Christian (17-6) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Northmont in a D-III sectional final doubleheader. Brookville (20-3) plays Northeastern (14-8) at 6 p.m.
GIRLS SCHEDULE: District, regional
Here’s five things to know about Versailles basketball:
1. Ahrens (23.5 points) is the younger brother of former Versailles standout Kyle Ahrens, a sophomore sub at Michigan State who led the Tigers to a D-III state runner-up in 2013. Yet another Ahrens, twin brother A.J., is the Tigers’ second-leading scorer (9.8).
“Kyle, he’s one of the main reasons I’m where I’m at today,” gushed Justin after scoring 38 points in a romp of Greenon on Tuesday. “Him going through it and all the special defenses, him telling me what to do and leading the path for me. And my dad (assistant coach Kevin Ahrens) and A.J. on the team, it’s really fun to be a part of and have the last name that I have.”
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2. The Tigers are guided by first-year head coach Travis Swank. He succeeded Scott McEldowney, who was 150-78 in a 10-year run with the Tigers, including that final four season in 2013. Swank was the Tigers’ JV coach the previous eight seasons.
3. Versailles has won 18 consecutive games since losing only to visiting Dunbar (21-3) way back on Dec. 22, 79-70. But there have been some close calls, most recently a regular season-ending 57-56 win at Greenville. Versailles also beat Russia by one, Urbana by two and Tri-Village 61-56 in the Good Samaritan Flyin’ to the Hoop.
4. Versailles is a highly regarded Midwest Athletic Conference athletic program, but the Tigers didn’t join the MAC until 2001, getting the nod over Lehman Catholic and Lima Central Catholic. Prior to then Versailles was a power in the now-defunct Southwestern Rivers Conference from 1982-2001.
5. The Tigers’ boys team isn’t the only show in the Darke County village. The Versailles girls (22-3), led by coach Jacki Stonebraker, take a seven-game win streak into Saturday’s D-III district final against Bethel-Tate (19-6) at 11 a.m. at Springfield. The Tigers’ girls have played in five state final fours since 2007 and won state titles in 2015 and ’08.