VERSAILLES — The Butler Aviators traveled to Division III’s fifth-ranked Versailles on Tuesday night and came away with a thrilling 74-69 victory in double overtime.
The win lifted Butler to 17-2 on the season while Versailles dropped to 16-2.
Versailles standout Justin Ahrens, an Ohio State commit, led all scorers with 41 points, but the Tigers were no match for Butler’s balanced attack. Four Aviators scored in double figures led by Kort Justice with 25. Braedon Norman had 19, Michael Kreill 14, and Bryant Johnson had 13, and perhaps the game’s biggest basket.
After taking a timeout with 4.1 seconds left in regulation, Justice penetrated the Tiger defense and found Johnson on the left block for an easy basket at the buzzer to send the game in overtime.
Butler jumped out to an early lead in overtime, but the Tigers retook the lead with 1:02 in overtime on a pair of free throws by Ahrens.
Justice made the biggest play of the game 30 seconds later as he took a charge from Ahrens that fouled the Tiger out of the game. This time it was Versailles that tied the game late when Keaton McEldowney hit two free throws to send the game to a second extra period.
The Tigers scored first in overtime but the Aviators then scored 9 unanswered points by Justice and Norman to close out the game.
Both teams got off to a slow start as the Aviators led 7-6 after a quarter.
Ahrens was just getting warmed up, however, and he scored 14 points in the second quarter as the Tigers built a 26-16 lead. Norman and Justice scored two baskets late and the Aviators held Versailles scoreless over the last 1:40 of the half to trail just 26-20.
Things couldn’t start off worse for Butler in the third quarter as a pair of missed layups led to quick baskets on the other end and Versailles built its largest lead of the game at 32-20. However, the Aviators climbed back with a 19-9 run over the final six minutes of the quarter to close the gap to 2 at 41-39.
The final quarter was back and forth with the Aviators taking their first lead since the first quarter on a three by Norman. Ahrens answered with a three of his own, but Norman answered again and Butler had its largest lead of the game to that point at 47-44.
An 8-2 run put the Tigers back on top 52-49 and it looked bleak for the visitors when Versailles took a 55-51 lead with 1:45 to play. Kreill changed things with a basket followed by a steal for an assist to Justice as the Aviators tied it at 55-55. A basket by the Tigers set up Justice’s pass to Johnson that sent the game to overtime.
Butler will return to action Friday as they host Troy. A win by the Aviators would guarantee at least a share of the Greater Western Ohio Conference North division. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
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