Blair Oaks tops Versailles

Seth Eskens of Blair Oaks goes up for a shot against the defense of Evan Lewis of Versailles during Friday night’s game in Wardsville.

Seth Eskens of Blair Oaks goes up for a shot against the defense of Evan Lewis of Versailles during Friday night’s game in Wardsville. Photo by Kris Wilson.

WARDSVILLE, Mo. — It’s not the glitziest part of the game, but the Blair Oaks Falcons can certainly give their free-throw shooting a lot of credit for a win Friday night.

Trying to hold off a late-game charge by the Versailles Tigers, the Falcons canned 9-of-10 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter — and 13-of-16 for the game — to salt away a 77-61 victory.

“We’ve had some guys step up and knock them down this year,” said Blair Oaks coach Ryan Fick, who added his team is shooting better than 68 percent from the line for the season after Friday’s effort.

And not only did the Falcons do a good job of making shots once they got to the line, but they did a great job of getting there in the first place. After Versailles cut the lead to 68-58 with two minutes left, the Tigers were forced to foul in an attempt to cut into the lead.

The only problem? Versailles had just two team fouls for the half at that point.

Needing to get the ball in five times and run the clock, the Falcons did just that. They finally reached the bonus with 1:18 left in the game and then Haydn Lock hit 5-of-6 free throws and Joey Bernskoetter canned 4-of-4 to end it.

“It was an interesting situation because they had to foul so much before we got to the line, but we did a good job of inbounding the ball and securing it and then making them foul us,” Fick said.

The game started with a wild, back-and-forth first quarter that ended with Blair Oaks up 19-17. The Falcons hit 5-of-9 from 3-point range in the quarter, including 4-of-6 by Brett Voss. The senior ended up going 8-of-16 from beyond the arc for the game, leading all scorers with 24 points.

Then came an odd second quarter, where Blair Oaks made just 6-of-17 shots, but still outscored Versailles 18-13 to lead 37-30 at halftime.

“I think sometimes when you shoot a high amount of perimeter shots like we do at times, you have those spells where you have a hard time scoring,” Fick said. “We’ve got to be able to recognize that and get the ball going to the basket.”

The Falcons took their biggest lead of the game at 49-35 when Logan Gratz canned a jumper with 4:44 left in the third.

But the Tigers responded with a 14-7 spurt to cut the lead in half, as Trey Woods canned a pair of big 3s for Versailles in the run.

“Woods is one of those guys who’s just difficult to guard because he’s so quick,” Fick said. “We tried to send doubles at him and make him get rid of it, but sometimes he just dribbled around the doubles. And when you do get him corralled, they’ve got some guys he finds who knock shots down.”

Blair Oaks eventually settled for a 58-49 lead after three periods.

The Falcons kept building the lead early in the fourth, only to see the Tigers trim it back down.

“We just were never able to extend the lead and I really can’t put my finger on why,” Fick said. “We would get up 10 or 12 points and it seemed like we would have a few empty possessions or careless turnovers. There were a lot of spells, in a game that was high-scoring, where neither team scored.”

Logan Bax joined Voss in double figures for the Falcons by tossing in 13 points. Chandler Haxton and Gratz added 11 and 10, respectively, while battling with Versailles’ 6-foot-9 center Christian Anderson.

“That’s one of those things where you can’t simulate 6-9 in practice,” Fick said. “I was happy with the way Chandler and Logan battled in there.”

Versailles (7-14) was led by Anderson and Ryan Surface, who scored 15 points apiece. Woods and Austin Edgar chipped in with 10 each.

“This game is indicative of what kind of district we have,” said Fick, whose team is seeded first in Class 3 District 8. “(Versailles is) the seventh seed in our district who came to our place and battled us for nearly four quarters. We pulled away at the end there, but those kids never quit.”

Blair Oaks (18-5 overall, 4-1 Tri-County Conference) returns to action Tuesday when it hosts California.

In Friday night’s JV game, Blair Oaks posted a 63-21 victory. Mikel Drehle had 17 points to lead three Falcons (15-6) in double figures. Bryce Pritchett added 12, while Ross Burlbow had 10.

Five Falcons scored in double figures in Friday night’s 72-33 victory in the freshman game. Jordan Hair led the way with 18 points. C.J. Closser added 12, while Kellen Griep had 11. James Bishop and Owen Luebbering chipped in with 10 each for Blair Oaks (14-5).

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