VERSAILLES — The Anna boys basketball team received a gut check on Saturday night, and passed it—despite blowing an 18-pont lead.
Punched in the stomach a few times on Friday in suffering its first loss of the year to Jackson Center, Anna flexed its muscles the next evening to whip Versailles by a dozen points in the final nine minutes. The Rockets pulled out a hard-earned 60-52 road victory before 1,800 fans at the Tigers gym.
Leading 37-19 with nearly four minutes left in the first half, the Rockets went scoreless for better than eight minutes overlapping two quarters as Versailles blitzed to a 41-37 edge.
Then, 6-foot-5 Griffin Doseck became a monster down the stretch for Anna. The senior responded with all 12 of his points at crunch time. Bart Bixler added two more big hoops in the game-deciding fourth period.
Held to two baskets between them on Friday, guards Bixler and Riley Huelskamp powered Anna to a 21-12 first quarter advantage. The duo combined for 16 in the first eight minutes of the contest.
When Anna’s lead swelled to 13 points in the second stanza, a Kam Steward triple and an Isaac Lininger deuce boosted it further.
Then the Tigers growled, loudly and often. Michael Stammen exploded for ten points in the second stanza and 17 for the game as the Tigers closed within eight at the break. Evan Heistand went to work to start the second half with three hoops around the rim enabling the Tigers to overtake Anna.
At this juncture in the fast-paced, entertaining game, Rockets head coach Nate Barhorst made a key defensive adjustment trying to protect Doseck, who picked up this third and fourth fouls.
Playing a taller lineup with Carter Elliott and Justin Murray checking Versailles post players, Doseck was freed to produce a series of blocks and deflections coming from the weak side of the floor.
In addition, the Rockets—a nearly 80 percent foul shooting team in the fourth quarter this season—poured in nine straight charity tosses in the last few minutes to secure the victory.
Huelskamp and Bixler paced Anna with 15 each. Doseck chipped in with a dozen. Murray scored 6; Steward, 5; Lininger, 4; and Elliott, 3.
Stammen led Versailles with 17, including three buckets from long range, and Heistand added 14. Ryan Martin tallied ten for the losers. Kody Naftzger and Hunter Van Skyock recorded 6 and 5, respectively.
The Rockets outpointed Versailles by nine at the stripe.
Anna is now 16-1. The Rockets travel to Fort Loramie on Friday with a slim one game edge in the Shelby County Athletic League. Two conference games remain. Anna is also at Russia to finish the year on February 19.
Versailles is 10-8 and far better than an eight-loss club. The Tigers, who throttled both Russia and Minster by wide margins recently, journey to Vandalia-Butler on Tuesday night.