In this contest Delphos went up 16-5 in the first period, but after that it as all Tigers as Versailles won 50-35, improving to 5-4 on the year and 1-1 in the MAC. The Jays drop to 3-5 and 0-3.
Clayton Nieport paced a balanced Versailles’ attack with 19 points. Pat Mescher added nine crucial points off the bench for the Tigers. Bob Koester led the Jays with 18 points and four three pointers.
In the early going Jays were all over the Tigers. Led by Koester, Delphos took an 11-3 lead midway through the first period. Using mostly the three ball, the Jays built a 16-9 advantage after one period of play.
But, Versailles coach Scott McEldowney proved conventional wisdom wrong. After opening the game in a man-to-man defense, he switched to a 2-3 zone, altering the game.
“Jim Boeheim said it best when he noted that teams shoot a lower percentage against their zone than man,” said McEldowney. “These kids are making me a firm believer we can run this defense and their execution was just fantastic.”
Following the change in defense the Jays managed a mere 19 points the rest of the game.
“Versailles had shown man most of the season and they went out of that tonight,” commented St. Johns coach Aaron Elwer. “It took us awhile to adjust to their zone defense.”
The defensive effort spread to the offense in the second stanza. The Tigers went on an 8-0 run taking a 17-16 advantage. Mixing up the perimeter play with post play Versailles started to confuse the Jays on both ends of the court.
After the Tigers spurt the rest of the period went back and forth and the half closed with the Jays up 20-19, but Versailles clearly had all the momentum.
“Versailles runs a lot of variations out of the flex offense and we knew that coming in,” noted Elwer. “But they do a great job of running screens out of that offense.”
The third period looked like it might mirror the first period. After Nieport opened the scoring with a basket, Delphos went on a 5-0 run building a 25-21 lead. But the rest of the period was all Tigers.
The Tigers defense held St. Johns scoreless for the next six minutes plus and the offense fed off it. Versailles ended the period on a 16-0 run, with Nieport doing most of the damage. When the horn finally sounded Versailles had turned a tight ball game into a 37-25 blowout.
“We tell the kids to never get too high are too low. I also told them coming in don’t get caught up in their shooting the three ball. Just make sure you don’t give up the easy buckets,” said McEldowney.
For the first time all game St. Johns found itself in a huge hole and there was no escaping it. The Blue Jays made a couple of runs, the first coming to open the stanza. A couple of quick field goals made it 37-29 Tigers. A few minutes later the deficit was cut to eight at 39-31 on a Koester’s bucket.
But for every Jays run Versailles had an answer if their own. The Tigers were able to push the lead back to double digits. The icing on the cake was Mescher who dropped in five big points. On consecutive trips down the court the sophomore had two three point play opportunities converting the last one and sealing the deal for McEldowney’s crew.