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02-16-06 St. Henry takes on Versailles in battle of state-ranked teams

By Gary R. Rasberry

  Last weekend, the Midwest Athletic Conference boys basketball race took a wild turn.

St. Henry's Mitch Niekamp has been a solid contributor off the bench for the Redskins this season.<br></br>

  This week, things could become a little clearer for several teams.

  In Darke County, the battle of two Division III state-ranked teams is also an eliminator from conference contention.

  Versailles, sixth in the updated Associated Press state poll, plays seventh-ranked St. Henry in what will be a jam-packed Tiger Gymnasium. Versailles, whose regular season ends on Saturday, is at 6-2 while the Redskins are 5-2. The winner will either be a game back of the MAC lead or tied, pending on the outcome of the game between MAC leader New Bremen and Coldwater at the Palace.

  The last time these two teams met at Versailles, league considerations were on the line and it ended up being a preview for the Division III state title game two years ago.  Versailles edged out the Redskins 51-50 on Feb. 6, 2004 en route to a 20-0 regular season and MAC title. St. Henry got its revenge at the Division III state final a month later to capture the fourth state basketball title in school history for the Redskins.

  Now, each team needs to win to keep their conference hopes alive and hope that either Coldwater this week or Minster next week can knock off New Bremen to force at least a co-championship.

  The Tigers are heading to tournament play after Friday's game and Saturday's regular-season finale with Brookville, and a big win will help in getting Versailles ready for the Southwest District tournament.

  St. Henry, fresh off beating two solid teams in New Knoxville and Van Wert, will look to keep the momentum going.

  The big change for the Redskins, after league losses to New Bremen and Minster, has been the move to man-to-man defense on all occasions. After Minster continuously knocked down three-pointers to beat the Redskin zone, St. Henry has used the man-to-man defense almost exclusively.

  The Tigers ended a two-game MAC losing streak with a win over Parkway last Friday.

  The key for the Tigers is to contain the inside presence of Kurt Huelsman (15.6 ppg., 8.2 rpg., .652 FG%) and Toby Boeckman (10.1 ppg., 8.7 rpg., .612 FG%).

  But while watching the post, Versailles will need to be wary of a potentially dangerous outside game for St. Henry as the Redskins have dropped in 96 threes on the season. Senior Ryan Ranly is among the area's top trey shooters with 27 three-pointers.


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