Boys basketball: No beating these driven Ahrens brothers

  • Marc Pendleton
  • Staff Writer
4:34 p.m Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017 Sports

At Versailles, it’s always good to have an Ahrens in the lineup. Or two.

These are the best of times for Versailles senior brothers Justin and AJ Ahrens. They are the final family link to an outstanding run of Versailles High School athletics that began with older brothers Bryant, Jacob and Kyle Ahrens, now a hard-luck junior (out with a re-broken foot) at Michigan State University. Bethany is the lone sister.

Unbeaten Versailles ventured into dreaded Greater Catholic League Co-Ed North territory at Chaminade Julienne on Tuesday night. A stinging Division III regional semifinal loss to Cincinnati Roger Bacon of the GCL Central last season has provided the brothers with a final-season sense of urgency as seniors.

“Late in the season we see teams like this, Badin, Bishop Fenwick, Roger Bacon, yes, bad memories from last year,” Justin Ahrens said after scoring 34 points in a 68-40 blitz of CJ. “We knew coming in the pressure we get from Dayton teams. They make us run the floor the get out on fast breaks and play fast, too. We’ve got to get used to that.”

Justin Ahrens has delivered for Versailles (4-0). He surpassed 1,000 career points as a junior and put a program-record 46 points on Celina in the season opener to go with a school-record 10 three-pointers.

There are many upsides to his game. At 6-feet-5, he easily can run the point, hit the 3, rebound and defend any team’s best player. No wonder Ohio State was among the many major basketball programs at the next level who wanted him. Ahrens de-committed from the Buckeyes when Thad Matta wasn’t renewed as the Buckeyes coach last June, then recommitted and signed with OSU last month after being won over by new coach Chris Holtmann, who left Butler.

“It was a time I was uncertain,” Justin Ahrens said. “I needed to take a step back in my recruitment and see things through again, in case I got a coach that I didn’t like. That wouldn’t be good. I’m excited and looking forward to it and hopefully I can get my brother to go there, too.”

For now, the plan is to get Versailles back to a state final four, something the Tigers haven’t done since 2013 when Kyle Ahrens was a high-flying junior. Versailles appeared on that path last season, Travis Swank’s debut as coach, until falling 61-46 to Roger Bacon, the D-III state runner-up, and finishing 25-2.

Justin leads the Tigers in scoring (28.0 points) and AJ is second (11.3). Their on-court connection is special.

“It’s cool,” AJ said. “It’s fun to have someone on the team like that who can make plays. It opens up a lot for you on the court, too.”

Versailles is likely to be ranked among the state’s D-III best when the first Associated Press poll is released in early January. Awaiting Versailles are games against Greater Western Ohio Conference members Tippecanoe, Sidney, Butler and Greenville along with a Midwest Athletic Conference gauntlet.

Versailles is a two-time defending MAC champion with a 13-game win streak mounted over the last three seasons. And the Versailles boys aren’t the only celebrated show in Darke County. The undefeated Versailles girls were the D-III state runner-up last season. Just like the boys, the girls team (7-0) hasn’t been pushed yet.

• Trotwood-Madison (2-1) had a rematch at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary last Saturday, falling 81-71. The Rams also lost to the Irish 62-60 on a last-second shot in the D-II state final last March. Trotwood had beaten Akron SVSM 100-61 in that regular season.

As expected, Myles Belyeu (25.0) and Amari Davis (16.5) lead Trotwood in scoring. Getting the D-III state title football kinks out will be key for many of the others: The pair combined for all but seven points in the Akron SVSM game.

• Xenia’s Samari Curtis (29.0) leads the Greater Western Ohio Conference in scoring, but Wayne’s Darius Quisenberry (21.3) is closing. The senior guard went for a season-high 32 points in a 71-64 win at Beavercreek following a 20-point effort vs. Fairmont. He also leads the GWOC in assists (7.3).

Wayne (3-0) is at Lima Senior in a two-day holiday tourney this weekend.

• Bethel (4-0) is off to a great Cross County Conference start behind Ryan Rose (25.5 points) and Kendal James (20.5). Missing in the lineup is all-time Bees leading scorer Caleb South. The senior injured a foot in preseason and is looking to a mid-January return.

South averaged 24.6 points as a junior and was All-Ohio D-III second team.

• Kenton Ridge (2-0) has reason to celebrate. The Cougars snapped a 22-game, regular-season losing streak (over two seasons) by beating Catholic Central in the season opener and followed up with a 60-56 defeat of Graham. Kenton Ridge was 0-21 last season, then stunned Indian Lake 64-56 in a D-II sectional opener.

• James Anderson is a big reason Troy Christian is 4-0. The 6-9 senior is averaging 24.7 points and a Metro Buckeye Conference-best 15.7 rebounds.

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