By Mark Ruschau
VERSAILLES -- For the second game in a row, the Versailles Tigers played a state-ranked team from the Division IV ranks and for the second game in a row the Tigers came away with a big win.
Last Saturday night, the Tigers defeated the number-four ranked Russia Raiders, handing them their first loss at Russia.
On Friday night, Versailles took on the last unbeaten team in the Midwest Athletic Conference, the New Knoxville Rangers, and the results were just what the Tigers wanted as they used a fast start to defeat the visitors 71-53 before a sold out crowd in Tiger Gymnasium.
With the win, Versailles is right back in the conference chase as they improve to 5-2 (13-3 overall) and finds themselves in a tie in the loss column with Minster and St. Henry but still a game back in the loss column behind New Knoxville and New Bremen. New Knoxville falls to 5-1 in the MAC and 13-3 overall.
With the game tied at 5-5, Versailles then took control scoring the next five points to build the lead to 10-5, on a pair of free throws and a three-point field goal by Zac Richard. After a basket by Tony Meyer made it 10-7, Barga and Richard canned threes on consecutive trips to build the Tigers' lead to 16-7 forcing a New Knoxville timeout, just 2:55 into the game.
The timeout did not help the Rangers' cause as Versailles got baskets from Jeremy Shardo and Barga and a pair of free throws by Shardo to build the lead to 22-9.
New Knoxville got back into the game at the end of the quarter as Tyler Henschen hit a deuce and Josh Niemeyer hit a three at the buzzer to make the score 22-14.
In the opening period, Versailles hit 7-of-10 shots from the floor, including all four of their three-point attempts. Barga had 10 points in the quarter while Richard chipped in eight.
"We jumped on them early and we never let up," said Versailles boss David Peltz. "We controlled the game the whole way and we played extremely well and I thought our win over Russia last Saturday gave us confidence coming in here tonight. Our goal is to continue to get better and I thought we played well tonight. We shot the ball well and defended well, it was a great effort.
"It makes a big difference when we come out and hit three pointers like we did tonight, especially early in the game," continued Peltz. "We got some guys that can hit those shots and that then opens up things inside. It's nice to see those three-point shots fall for us instead of the other team."
The opening period was a sign of things to come on the night for Versailles on the offensive end as it ended 18-of-34 from the floor for the game, including 7-of-13 from three-point range. The Tigers were almost automatic from the free-throw line as they connected on 30-of-34 from the charity stripe.
With as well as the Versailles offense performed in the first period, they led by just eight entering the second period, but the Tigers turned the screws to the New Knoxville offense as they held them to just six points in the second period, while scoring 17 of their own to take a 39-20 lead at intermission.
For the game, New Knoxville shot just 17-of-39 from the field for the game and just 12-of-29 over the final three periods.
"We really did not do anything special defensively against their flex offense but I thought we communicated well," said Peltz. "When they tried to go high-low we tried to deny the basketball to the post and if they did get the ball to the post, I thought we did a good job of not letting them have their quick passes to the blocks or the corners.
"I thought we had them a little frustrated on the offensive end," continued Peltz. "I thought we did a good job defensively both in our halfcourt and in our fullcourt defenses."
Barga led a trio of Tigers in double figures with a game-high 25 points, including 11-of-12 from the free-throw line. Shardo added 21 points while Clint Hufford chipped in 10 points.
Versailles is back in action tonight as it plays host to Ansonia.