Friday, March 9th, 2007
By Gary R. Rasberry
Shardo's 31 points not enough for Versailles
  DAYTON - Even without superstars O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker, North College Hill is pretty good.
The defending Division III state champs faced off against Versailles at the University of Dayton Arena in the UD Section II District Championship game, the second straight season the two teams have met in the tournament.
Despite Versailles senior Jeremy Shardo doing everything he could to move his Tigers into the regional, the Trojans did all the right things, beating the Tigers 61-56 to move on to the Nutter Center next week.
North College Hill, without Mr. Basketball O.J. Mayo, all-stater Bill Walker and the hoopla surrounding the program, take a 13-7 record into next Wednesday's game against River Valley, which beat Bloom-Carroll 57-55 at the Columbus Fairgrounds Coliseum. Versailles ends its season at 14-9.
The matchup was as even as it could be for three quarters, with each team matching the other's runs. In the end, Versailles could not keep pace with a quick Trojans team and was forced to foul. North College Hill promptly hit 17-of-19 free throws, including 13 straight down the stretch.
"I've been struggling with free throws all year," said junior guard Damon Butler, who was 9-of-10 from the line. "I've been shooting 100 free throws after practice every day. We say it comes down to free throws and layups everytime, and it did."
While the foul line was joy for the Trojans, it was woeful for the Tigers. Versailles made just 12-of-21 from the stripe.
"It seemed we've struggled with it in games," said Versailles coach Scott McEldowney. "I knew sooner or later it would get us.
"They were able to control the tempo a little more than we would have liked. It wore us down at the end, when we had trouble guarding them. I think our legs were shot."
The fans were treated to a scoring clinic by Shardo and North College Hill's top stars, senior Nathaniel Glover and Butler. Glover, a top defender on last year's team, scored 27 points for the Trojans while Butler, despite playing with a sprained ankle suffered early in the game, scored 24.
"I give them credit, they knocked down the shots that, on some of the tapes we've seen, haven't shot well from the outside," said McEldowney. "They did tonight, though.
"Butler is just an awesome point guard and athlete. And Glover also knocked down a lot of shots. He just shot over us. Give them a lot of credit. They got the job done."
But it was Shardo who did everything he could in his power to get the Tigers to the regionals for the third time in four years.
Shardo was 12-of-23 from the field and 4-of-4 from the foul line to lead all players with 31 points. Eighteen of his points came in the first half, with 12 coming in the second quarter as the Tigers used a late flurry to take a 24-23 halftime lead.
"He's a special player," said McEldowney. "Maybe I'll go out there and say he's the best ever to play at Versailles. He's the most complete without a doubt, as far as defense, rebounding and handling the ball."
Butler, who had to guard Shardo part of the game, was impressed.
"He's a very good player. We had some mental breakdowns on defense," said Butler. "We got together and said we had to play defense, which we did at the end."
Mahaffey, himself a standout in the 1990s at Miami, concurred.
"Shardo played an outstanding game," said Mahaffey. "He's a very great player, a veteran. We faced him twice in three years. He's an outstanding player.
Versailles took the lead for the last time in the game at 44-43 with 4:39 to go in the contest after Ian Nisonger hit a pair of free throws. Dwayne Parks then chose the perfect time to hit his only basket of the game, a three-pointer from the corner with 4:25 left to make it 46-44. Drew Schwartz got it to 46-45 with a free throw with 4:09 left, but the rest of the game called for plenty of trips to the free-throw line. In the final three minutes, North College Hill went to the line 12 times, making all 12. Versailles never got closer than five points the rest of the way.
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