Versailles rallies around Ahrens

Recovering from injury has played a big part in Kyle Ahrens’ basketball career at Versailles High School.

Several years ago Kyle and his freshman brother Justin both broke the same bone in the same leg. Six games into last season Kyle landed awkwardly against Anna and snapped his tibia and fibula, ending his junior season.

That’s why sitting out with a slight stress fracture earlier this season only stung a bit.

“That killed me just to watch,” the Tigers’ high-flying 6-foot-5 senior recalled. “I couldn’t practice or anything. I’m getting back on track and enjoying the team. The chemistry is coming together. It’s exciting.”

With a roster loaded with three Ahrens, there’s much to be excited about Tigers basketball. Versailles (10-2) is on a mission to return to the Division III state final four after placing runner-up in 2013.

The Tigers have lost only to Celina in the season opener and at Midwest Athletic Conference rival St. Henry 72-49 last week. St. Henry (10-1) also is lumped in D-III, but in a different district.

Kyle Ahrens put up a career-high 40 points in Tuesday’s 83-58 win at Tippecanoe. The non-conference effort also was significant because Tipp’s gymnasium is named after the Ahrens’ grandmother, former Tipp longtime school board member Pat Wampler.

“It’s my senior year and I got to play one last time (there) for my grandma,” Kyle said. “It was exciting.”

Fully recovered from injury, Kyle leads the Tigers in scoring (28.0), rebounding (9.0), assists (3.6) and blocks (1.5) per game. Those are the kinds of numbers Versailles coach Scott McEldowney thought he was going to build last season’s team around. Instead, it’s this season.

Versailles has a special player in Kyle Ahrens. To say he plays above the rim doesn’t quite do his game justice.

“We’ve known that for quite some time,” McEldowney said of Kyle, who signed with Michigan State University over many others, including Dayton. “People are starting to see it. They would have seen it last (season) but it was six games in when he broke his leg, so nobody really got a chance to see how much his shooting’s improved and what kind of special player and athlete he is.”

Jace Barga is good for 12.1 points and Justin Ahrens 10.9. Justin’s twin brother, A.J., is a promising freshman starter in the JV team. Their dad, Kevin Ahrens, is a Versailles assistant coach.

The St. Henry loss was a growing pain. McEldowney noted just two players from that state runner-up team have that kind of big-game experience. “We go over there and it’s a packed house and Bob Hoying (St. Henry grad and former Ohio State quarterback) is there and they’re yelling his name,” he said. “I think it overwhelmed some of our inexperienced kids.”

Versailles previously handed Miami East its only loss, 63-55. The Tigers host Fort Recovery today.

“We always set goals to make it to state every year,” Kyle Ahrens said. “Every year in the tournament, that’s when our chemistry just all of a sudden comes together. This year it’s come together even earlier. We’re looking forward to playing together and enjoying the ride.”

  • Reader Phyllis Scholp wondered why we haven’t indicated Luke Kennard of Franklin played one more season to surpass Jerry Lucas of Middletown for 10th place among all-time Ohio career scoring leaders.

Games played — not years — is more insightful. Although Lucas played one less varsity season, his teams went much deeper into the postseason than Franklin has with Kennard, and that’s no knock on the Wildcats. Those Middie teams won 76 straight games, two state titles and lost in the state semis when Lucas was a senior.

Here’s the lowdown: Lucas played from 1956-58 on teams that were 25-0, 27-0 and 24-1 for a combined 76-1. He played 77 games to collect 2,460 points. Kennard has played on teams that were 20-1, 19-3, 20-4 and 13-1 (so far) for a combined 72-9. He played in 81 games to get 2,462 points.

So Kennard played in four more games and also in the 3-point era. Obviously, he wouldn’t have passed Lucas without playing an extra varsity season, but their numbers and games played to get those numbers are extremely close, which is neat.

I’ll trump that question with: Why didn’t Middies coach Paul Walker call up Lucas from junior high and play him as a freshman, which he could have.

  • Wayne (10-2) has a daunting doubleheader weekend. The Warriors host Centerville (12-1) today and play Gahanna Lincoln (13-0) in Saturday’s Ohio Scholastic Classic at Ohio Dominican University. Lincoln is No. 1 in the state Division I poll.

Also at ODU, it’s Dunbar (10-3) vs. Walnut Ridge (11-2) and Wilmington (12-0) vs. New Albany (9-2).

  • Tia Karras tied a Classic in the Country record with six 3-pointers in Miami Valley’s 53-25 defeat of Youngstown Ursuline this week. Miami Valley (13-1), a D-IV girls power, will host Thurgood Marshall at 1 p.m. Saturday.

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