SATURDAY AT NUTTER CENTER

Two great games were played today at the Nutter Center at Wright State University.

The road to the DII and DIII OHSAA Final Four went through Wright State University's Nutter Center Saturday afternoon.  In the early game Chaminade-Julienne's boys team defeated Bishop Watterson 46-44 and now will join their girls team up in Columbus at the state semi-finals. 

CJ took the lead with :50 second remaining and then clamped down on defense as Watterson had three shots off of great offensive rebounding.  But CJ pulls out the win thank to an impressive defensive stand at the end of the game.  Derrick Brown led the Eagles with 12 points.  The later game at the Nutter Center featured the undefeated Versailles Tigers against the defending state champions of Cincinnati Reading.

No strangers to one another these teams faced each other earlier in the season at Versailles where the Tigers pulled out a big win.  However, that win was not able to erase the memory of last seasons defeat in the regional semis at the hands of Reading.  The Tigers are confident that had they won that matchup the state championship would have found a home in Darke County.  Now the Tigers have their rematch with a chance to advance to the first state Final Four in school history and it appeared the entire town of Versailles showed up for the action.

Right off the tip off Ben Shappie of the Tigers controlled the ball, but found an unfriendly welcome from the Blue Devils Jeremy Overbeck, as Overbeck blocked the first attempt of the game into the stands.  However, Tiger scoring machine, Kyle Gehle, got the inbound and knocked down an open jumper to get the Tigers on the board.  The Blue Devils got on the board at the 5:15 mark when Johnny Gertz hit a three off an assist from Overbeck.

The Nutter Center was alive with excitement and both crowds were pumped and energized for their team.  The Blue Devils took a 14-10 lead into the second.  Reading executed their halfcourt set and played strong defense at their end of the court to get the early edge.

In the second Versailles was able to keep pace with the Blue Devils, but suffered a huge setback with an injury to star junior, Joe Shardo.  Shardo went down awkwardly early in the quarter.  When play stopped, it was apparent that Shardo had seriously injured his knee as the coach and trainer both came out to attend to the injured forward.  Amazingly, Shardo came back into the game a few minutes later, but it was clear he couldn't continue.  With Shardo out of the game the lead was pushed back to seven as the quarter was drawing to a close, but before the buzzer could sound, Gehle hit an acrobatic three to keep the lead at four, 27-23 Reading.

The Tigers came out with a flurry in the third.  Ben Shappe came out and immediately hit a three to cut the lead to one.  Then Versailles took its first lead with 6:48 remaining when Gehle hit another three.  At that time the Tigers led 29-28.  Both teams battled back and forth with several lead changes along the way.  As the quarter came to a close the energy and excitement in the arena was rising, but the margin between the teams was narrowing.  Versailles took a 40-39 lead into the final frame.

The Blue Devils shooting went cold at the beginning of the fourth.  The Tigers were able to push the lead to five, 44-39 thanks to great defense and some unbelievable play by Gehle.  Finally, Coach Bensman of Reading had to call a timeout with 5:38 remaining and the momentum in Versailles corner.

The Blue Devils finally got their first point of the quarter when Tony Pike converted a free throw with 5:01 remaining.  Bensman called another timeout with 3:27 remaining and facing a 47-42 Versailles' lead.  Coming out of the timeout the Blue Devils went to a box and one defense to try and slow down Kyle Gehle.  Coach McEldowney countered with a spread offense that was designed to run clock until a foul was committed.  The Tigers ran it to perfection, running a hybrid weave that worked the Blue Devil defenders hard and got the Tigers to the line.

With both teams in the double bonus, it seemed the last two minutes of the game were going to mostly be played at the free throw line.  At the 1:48 mark, Shappie pushed the lead to seven by hitting two free throws, 52-45.  The Tigers continued to work the clock extended the lead to nine with 38 seconds remaining.

At the 25.4 mark Reading's Pike hit a three to make the score 55-49.  Reading took another timeout to plan their final push.  But it was too little too late for the Blue Devils.  The game was clinched when Gehle hit another pair of free throws to push the score to 58-50.  And that was the final as the Versailles Tigers advance to the state final four for the first time in school history. 

All total, the Tigers attempted 40 free throws.  Gehle himself accounted for 12 of his game high 32 points at the line by going 21 of 25 at the line.  That was a testimony to how well Gehle and his teammates handled the ball down the stretch and remarkable free throw shooting.  Shappie stepped up his scoring as well, finishing with 20 points.  Tony Pike of Reading scored 12 and pulled down 12 rebounds to record a double-double in the loss and Johnny Gertz scored 18 for the Blue devils.

Another hard fought and well played game by two great teams.  Both teams showed a remarkable amount of class and respect for one another.  Also, both team's fans showed a tremendous amount of respect giving each other large ovations as representatives of OHSAA handed out the hardware at the end of the game.

 


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