NORTHMONT — Preble Shawnee’s spectacular season came to an end with a 66-56 loss to Versailles in the Division III District Semifinals on Saturday, Feb. 27.
“Didn’t play one of our better games, which unfortunately struck us at the wrong time,” Preble Shawnee coach Dale Spitler Jr. said. “We’ve had some sprinkled in throughout the season. Not very many of them. But we had one of those tonight. We tried a lot of things defensively. Tried a lot of things offensively. We just couldn’t really get it going. Made a few runs here and there, but couldn’t get into a nice groove.”
The Arrows came out strong against the Tigers, getting some early points from freshman Mason Shrout and senior Bryce Singleton to take an 8-7 lead. Unfortunately for Preble Shawnee, this would be their last lead of the game.
Versailles hit a pair of 3-pointers and added two quick baskets during a 10-1 run to take a 17-9 lead, and the Arrows made it 17-12 at the end of the first.
Preble Shawnee was kept at bay for the remainder of the half, never pulling any closer than within two as Versailles dominated in the paint and on midrange shots.
The Tigers would pick up their seventh foul with four minutes remaining in the half, but the Arrows would make it to the free throw line just one more time in the quarter.
A pair of baskets by Shrout and Singleton to begin the third quarter made it a five-point game, 34-29, but Versailles continued driving freely to the basket, leading 49-41 after the third.
Back-to-back scores by senior Dylan Hatmaker in the fourth made it 49-45, but the Tigers responded with a 10-0 run to extend the lead to 14 points, the highest of the game.
Preble Shawnee was able to cut the deficit to seven points, but time was not on the Arrows’ side, and Versailles closed the tournament game out at the free throw line for the 66-56 win.
Spitler commended Versailles’ three-point shooting, as well as the play of junior Jaydon Litten, who dropped 17 points in the first half.
“…we tried to keep an eye on him. He did a good job of knocking down shots. They’ve got a big guy inside so it’s kind of tough, you’re trying to stop the inside and outside, and you got to give up something, unfortunately,” Spitler said. “It’s just not one of our better games. I thought our effort was there, but we just couldn’t get a nice roll, get on that nice rhythm where you hit three or four buckets and get some momentum, get the crowd into it and build off of that. Just never got that. We had a couple of them and [Versailles] responded.”
The 66 points was tied for the second most points scored by Versailles this season, eclipsed only by a 68-35 win over New Knoxville in December.
Shrout led the Arrows with 25, followed by Singleton with 19 and senior Dylan Hatmaker with nine points. Sophomore Dylan Campbell added a basket and junior Xavier Adams connected on a free throw.
Shrout and Singleton combined for 44 of Preble Shawnee’s 56 points and took 38 of their 58 shots on the night.
“I know Mason and Bryce get a lot of the credit, but there’s been lots of games here where Xavier comes through and hit some big buckets and Dylan Hatmaker hits some big ones or where Logan [Hawley] comes in and does a great job defensively. Throughout the year, we’ve always had a good job of players that you had to keep an eye on you, you had to respect them because they were capable of knocking down shots,” Spitler said. “Nobody could really get it going tonight. We tried everybody. We tried the outside shots, we tried going in. We tried switching up defenses and it just wasn’t meant to be tonight.”
The Arrows finish the season sporting a 20-4 record alongside an SWBL Buckeye Division Championship and a Division III Sectional Title.
Spitler said Preble Shawnee will miss the current group of seniors – Singleton, Hatmaker and Jake Woodard – but they are proud of what the team accomplished this season.
“Starting with it the [Preble Shawnee] Holiday Tournament, we won that. We beat every team in the county. Outright league champs. We’re the number two seed in the tournament. We were sectional champs,” Spitler said. “It’s unfortunate that it has to end tonight, but I’m really proud of our guys and our seniors for what they’ve accomplished this year. Really gonna miss them. Really proud of our our season as a total when we reflect back and look where we came from, starting the season 1-2 to where we finished now, 20-4, with a lot of stuff to look back and a lot of good memories and everything.”
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles