The Tigers had the task of picking up a win in what proved to be a tough road environment at Osage's Courtwarming and the Indians made sure their opponent gave everything they had to come away on top.
Versailles showed it was prepared for a battle Friday night.
The Tigers had the task of picking up a win in what proved to be a tough road environment at Osage’s Courtwarming and the Indians made sure their opponent gave everything they had to come away on top.
Regulation was not enough to decide it and neither was the first overtime so after the equivalent of a whole entire extra quarter was played, the Tigers walked away with an 81-77 win in double overtime.
“That is why it is one of the best small school conferences in the state,” Versailles coach Jason Ollison said of the Tri-County Conference. “I mean, you play a team that has not won but two or three games and they come out and give you the fight of your life for the game tonight. You always know the unexpected is going to happen and credit to Coach (Aaron) Shockley, he has got his guys playing good.
“They are playing hard and they really wanted this one, you could tell. I’m proud of my guys for answering the bell.”
When these two sides previously meet in the Eldon Tournament a week ago, Versailles won by 32 points. Not a bad turnaround for an Osage team that had a chance to hit a game-winner at the end of regulation.
“It was one of those nights where the ball bounces their way and we missed a few boxouts,” Shockley said of his club’s rebounding efforts. “We played our hearts out and I’m proud of the kids. We are just a few possessions away as compared to two months ago where were a few quarters or halves away, so I’m proud of them.”
Indeed, the Indians simply refused to go away Friday night. The Tigers led by as many as eight points in the first half and 10 points in the third quarter before the Indians closed the gap both times. There was even a stretch where Osage went on a 24-8 run between the third and fourth to take a 6-point lead in the final frame before having the final possession to hit a game-winner. However, the Tigers did not foul, nor even allow a shot.
“We had a pretty good idea of where they were wanting to go with the ball and we knew they were going to try to run some shooters out and dump it inside,” Ollison said of one of the defensive stand.
“The kids understand when you tell them something and they can follow directions. It makes all the difference in the world and intelligent, competitive kids, you cannot ask for anything more.”
On the offensive end, Versailles senior Coby Williams was a point of emphasis for the Indian defense and for good reason as he entered Friday night’s contest averaging 31.6 points per game. Osage managed to hold him to seven points in the first half, but the Tigers had other players step up and answer the call.
Junior Seth Newton consistently hit shots behind the arc as he scored all 20 of his points in the first half, which included six 3-pointers. Other Tigers, like sophomore Eli Gulyayev, went to work inside the paint on his way to a 15-point evening. Williams found his groove in the second half, finishing the night with a team-leading 28 points, but he quickly credited his teammates.
“Seth was really knocking down shots in the first half and it opened up the floor for us, driving lanes for Eli and Brayden (Morrison) and all those guys,” the senior noted. “Seth really helped us out tonight.”
Shockley also noticed the adjustments the Tigers made as he sought to counter what the Tigers were doing. The Indians managed to keep Newton from doing any more damage, but Williams quickly filled any void.
“Coby got going and he is a guy, when he gets going, he is hard to stop. That is for sure,” the coach stated.
And when it came to pulling away, free throws eventually became a good ally of the Tigers. Williams had a pair of buckets and Morrison made a key 3-pointer but the Tigers were 5-8 from the free throw line in the final overtime period on a night where they shot 50 percent as a team for the game. Sophomore Adam Radcliff, who did not have any other points the entire night, made four of those five free throws in the end. Ollison said his team often simulates pressure free throws in practice, but coming through in an environment like Friday night was pleasing for the coach to see.
“It does not simulate 200 students yelling and booing at you, but that is what makes this game fun. That is why these guys, when they are 25 or 30 years old, they are going to remember tonight and how much fun it was,” the coach remarked.
And Ollison said that goes for the entire team, too, because he felt everyone contributed in some way and that is what is needed for the team to have success. In the short term, he hopes his guys remember how they responded in a tough situation moving forward for the rest of this season.
“You have to keep your heart rate where it needs to be, breathe and take care of the things you can control. Our number one goal tonight was to get the fans out of it and we failed miserably at that, but that is ok,” Ollison said with a smile. “I’m proud of our guys for taking care of business the way they needed to.”
Osage nearly took care of business as well. The Indians were led by senior Logan Havner who knocked down 22 points while fellow senior Dylan Long added 14 and sophomore Alton Drace put up 11. Both senior James Hutchcraft and junior Andrew Bryant finished with seven points each.
“We have to be more balanced like that. When we got one guy way ahead no one else is scoring, we are usually in trouble,” Shockley pointed out. “When we are balanced, we are usually in games. I just thought effort wise, it kept us in it and there are a few things we can fix in practice.”
Osage will look to quickly get those things fixed because the Indians (3-14, 1-1 Tri-County Conference) will be back on the floor Monday night to host Fulton.
“We’ll probably meet Sunday and watch some film and have a little walkthrough shoot-around and go from there,” Shockley said.
“Just have to keep playing hard. The feeling we had tonight is how we need to be, tired-wise after every game.”
Versailles (10-10, 1-3 Tri-County Conference) played its second game in as many days and had a third straight game scheduled on Saturday at Richmond. The Tigers return to the floor on Tuesday to face Hallsville for its own Courtwarming.
“Our play style, we’re fine. We’re well-conditioned and we’ll be alright,” Williams said of his team which usually likes to apply fullcourt pressure and likes to get up and down the floor.
“Just take it each day as it goes. Come out in practice, go through it seriously, have game and go through it seriously. We are just building up and what we’re playing for is a district title again.”
Ollison is certainly on board for that agenda and is looking for his guys to enjoy every opportunity the rest of the way.
“Like I keep telling the guys every year, it is the ride and not the destination. Just enjoy every night, enjoy the fact that you get to play and enjoy the fact that people want to come watch you play,” he said.