Parkway’s Brant Barna converts one of his two fourth quarter slams against Versailles on Friday night in Rockford. Barna had seven points in the Panthers’ home loss to the Tigers. (Times Bulletin/Pat Agler)
By John Parent
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
ROCKFORD — Versailles came into Friday night’s Midwest Athletic Conference tilt at Parkway with an unblemished 6-0 record, but without star forward Kyle Ahrens after the highly-recruited junior suffered a broken leg last weekend.
Even without Ahrens in the lineup, however, the Tigers had little difficulty with the host Panthers, defeating Parkway 57-36.
Versailles jumped out to an early 8-0 advantage as Parkway struggled to find any semblance of an offense. The Panthers misfired on each of the first seven shots and committed two turnovers in the game’s first five minutes. It wasn’t until senior forward Matt Heindel scored on a diving cut to the basket at 2:44 that the Panthers got on the board.
Though the Panthers would actually outscore their opponent 6-5 to end the quarter, Versailles led 13-6 at the break and things didn’t get much better from there.
“We came out flat-footed. I don’t know what the reason for it is, but in a few game, we’ve come out flat,” noted Parkway head coach Rick Hickman, whose team was just 3-for-11 shooting in the opening quarter. “We just couldn’t seem to get the lid off of it. Doesn’t matter who’s shooting it. We got a lot of good shots early. We missed some layups real early and (had those gone it) that could have set the tone and lit a fire under our kids, but we just came out flat.”
Versailees, even without the 6-5 Ahrens, boasted a starting lineup that boasted a pair of 6-5 players and another at 6-4. One of those players, the 6-5 Ryan Knapke, drained a pair of three-point field goals in the first quarter, but spent the rest of the evening finding his teammates behind the Parkway 2-3 zone.
“We broke down on defense. Give (Versailles) credit, they took advantage of our flat-footedness on the defensive end and capitalized inside,” added Hickman.
6-4 senior Damien Richard made it a habit of setting up shop just behind the back of the Parkway defense. On the occasion when he got the ball away from the hoop, Richard made his way inside via the baseline drive.
Twice in the first half, Richards converted old-fashioned three-point plays and by the time the half ended, he had amassed 16 points as the Tigers owned a 28-8 lead.
“Well, they’re long and that’s caused us trouble,” Hickman said. “It caused us trouble with New Bremen — they’re kind of long and they got inside our zone a little bit and that happened again tonight.”
The Tigers used a 12-for-25 first half to build their lead, but the sailing got even smoother in the third when senior Evan Phlipot got involved.
Instead of Richards, the Phlipot became the focal point of the offense and he racked up 10 points in the period, all of them coming from the paint, as Versailles pushed out to a 48-21 margin on a 10-of-16 shooting third quarter.
The Panthers, who began to show signs of life with Heindel’s eight-point effort in the third, were 4-for-9 as a group, including 2-for-2 from long range as Heindel and fellow senior Austin Dennison connected from beyond the arc.
By the time the Panthers really got rolling in the fourth, the game was well in hand. Nevertheless, a steal at mid-court by senior Brant Barna brought the crowd to its feet when Barna out-raced the defense and threw down a two-handed slam.
The Panthers ended the game on a 10-1 run to make the final score a bit closer than the game really was.
Versailles won the junior varsity game, 61-25.
Score by quarters
Versailles 13 15 20 9- 57
Parkway 6 2 13 15-36
Versailles (57) individual scoring
Campbell 6, Barga 4, Phlipot 14, Richards 22, Knapke 6, Wenning 4, Rutschilling 0, Steinbrunner 1, Marshal 0, Niekamp 0
Parkway (36) individual scoring
A. Adams 0, Bates 0, Dennison 7, Heindel 16, B. Barna 7, B. Adams 2, Gibson 2, Schaffner 0, Gehron 0, Morton 0, J. Barna 2