The road for a Division III championship is 15 miles. That's the distance between St. Henry, from Mercer County and Versailles, located in Darke County. The two MAC rival's, have taken different paths in reaching Columbus, but the goal is the same, bragging rights, and the trophy for their fan's.
Both schools know about championships. The Tigers have won 6 football titles, with the latest coming this past season. St. Henry has won titles in baseball, football and basketball in the past.
With a win, St. Henry becomes tied for 3rd, with most basketball championships won. The Redskins have state titles in 1979,1990 and 1991. Middletown holds the honor of winning the most state basketball titles with 7, with Columbus East following with 5.
Thursday, St. Henry players, expressed how much they wanted a game with their rival, they got their wish.
Versailles is looking for state hoops glory for the first time. Having won a football title this school year, the Tigers could join a list of three programs to have achieved this feat. Among them, St. Henry, who pulled the double during the 1990-91 season. The Tigers are also trying to become the second school with perfect records in football and basketball since the football playoffs system began. Marion Pleasant finished 11-0 in football and 26-0 in basketball during the 1972-73 seasons.
After staring the tournament with 196 teams, we end with the final two ready for glory and memories of a lifetime. Who would cut the nets after 4 quarters? A MAC team was for certain.
The two teams would look for the edge during the first quarter. Steve Sutter and Nate Stahl would pace St. Henry while the Tigers saw scoring from Kyle Gehle and Ben Shappie. By the end of the first quarter Versailles sat with a 1 point advantage 15-14.
The second quarter started with two more baskets from Shappie. Sutter would follow for the Redskins and Kurt Huelsman would get involved soon after. At the halftime horn, St. Henry pulled ahead 26-24. Both teams saw poor shooting from the field, with St. Henry hitting for 30.4% and Versailles only 27.6%.
When play resumed, Sutter and Huelsman would put the Redskins on track for a title with fast baskets. Versailles would go dry until the 5:50 mark when Gehle would hit for 2. For the rest of the third, the Tigers would see baskets come few and far between.
The forth quarter saw the action for both sides heat up. Versailles would see fouls starting to mount; by the end three Tigers would take seats on the bench. Each step taken by the Tigers saw the Redskins respond in championship manner.
In the end, St. Henry would claim the title and bragging rights between the two towns. For Versailles, Ken Shappie would score 19 along with Kyle Gehle's 17. The Tigers missed the leadership and scoring ability of Joe Shardo, a junior forward who injured his knee last weekend during the Tigers run in the tournament.
St. Henry placed four players in the scoring column with double figures. Jeremy Schwieterman (10), Huelsman (11), Sutter (12) and Stahl with 13 gave the Redskins the offense needed for the Division III state title.