It came down to the last five minutes.

One team was able to make a push, the other was not and the end result was a 69-59 hard-fought road win for School of the Osage in an intense atmosphere at Versailles Friday night.

“It felt good,” said Osage junior James McCann who lead all scorers with 18 points while collecting seven rebounds. “They (Versailles) got us last year during our Courtwarming so it is good to get one back on them.”

Osage coach Kevin Schnicker was also feeling good after seeing how his guys performed in crunch time with the seconds on the clock ticking away.

“It was awesome,” Schnicker stated. “I told our kids to enjoy this. It is going to be a blast because there is going to be a great crowd, there was going to be a lot of energy for both sides and our fans traveled well. Our guys made shots down the stretch and I thought our defense in the fourth quarter was exceptional again.

“It really set the tone. We had three or four stops that really allowed us to pull away and then we made free throws down the stretch to seal it,” Schnicker added.

Indeed, those free throws proved to be crucial as Versailles made every effort they could to close the gap. Both sides were tied at 47 with under seven minutes remaining, but the Indians were able to pull away with a 12-3 run and create a deficit for the Tigers that could not be overcome.

When it came to free throws, the Indians finished the night shooting 78 percent as a team from the charity stripe before the final buzzer sounded. How often does the team practice them?

“Everyday,” McCann said. “Everyday.”

The intensity the Indians brought on the defensive side of the court would not go unnoticed as well.

“We got guys in foul trouble, we were having to shift guys in and out and we got into a position of playing defensive basketball as opposed to being able to attack. Anytime you get on your heels like that it is not going to be good,” Versailles coach Jason Ollison pointed out. “They (Osage) are a solid defensive club. Coach Schnicker does a good job of teaching defense and that is where we want to be eventually.”

Osage dealt with some foul trouble of their own as well as McCann, junior Zach Wheeler, junior Drake Gaines, junior Payton Bartlett and senior Jason Edwards all had two fouls before the end of the first half. However, the team managed to respond in the face of adversity.

“I just had a heart talk with those guys and said, ‘Hey I get it. It’s horrible that you are just sitting there and you want to be in the game.’ But they understand where we came from and their brothers, their teammates stepped up,” Schnicker said. “When you struggle, you’re in foul trouble and your team loses it is really horrible. But when you do it and your team wins then you should be able to enjoy it and I think they did. I thought that Dalton (Depeé) Isaac (Yoder) and C.J. (Myers) did a good job for us off the bench.”

Wheeler finished the night with 17 points, junior Keyton Knamiller added 16 points to go with his nine rebounds and seven assists and Depeé chipped in seven points respectively. Being able to rely on one another can make a big difference for the team as they look to finish off the regular season on a strong note.

“We preach family all the time. A lot of people talk about family, but we try to live it,” Schnicker noted. “It is a cliche and you her all teams say it, but we need to mean it and you have to care and try in everything that you do for everybody on the team.

“I thought that we had that. I thought we spread the ball around well, guys found open people for shots, people were making the extra pass and hitting the boards. I thought they were great teammates and they had in their minds that they were not going to let their brothers down and they were going to win the game,” Schnicker added.

Versailles utilized the concept of teamwork as well as the Tigers saw their fair share of production from a number of different contributors. Senior Shane Randall paced Versailles with 17 points, junior Jonathan Geier finished with 12 and freshman Coby Williams knocked in 12 points of his own.

“I was proud of their effort. They played hard the whole game and it is hard to get mad at a high school kid for missing a shot, dribbling the ball off his foot or throwing it to the wrong guy so we don’t get too caught up,” Ollison said. “Whenever we watch film we’ll point out things they can do different, but after a hard-fought game like that it is not the time to start talking about what you should have done.”

However, the coach did take some time to commend the efforts of Geier and sophomore Wyatt Espinosa who took on some different roles tonight.

I was real proud of Jonathan coming off the bench. He kind of changed up his role tonight and he responded really well and was a lot more aggressive with the ball,” the coach said. “Wyatt took his spot in the starting lineup and gave us a ton of energy right off the bat and was a big contributor defensively for us tonight.”

Ollison also took some time to once again acknowledge the crowd for giving his club a great environment to play in at Viebrock Gymnasium.

“The stands were full and were great. It was really neat and nice to see people come out and support the guys,” he stated. “I know they (his team) were disappointed they couldn’t give us a win, but they appreciate that and I appreciate that. I thought our effort was great. We had a few breaks that didn’t go our way and that is the way the game goes sometimes.”

Now, it is on to a contest with St. Paul Lutheran of Concordia Monday night as the Tigers (9-10, 1-2 Tri-County Conference) look to jump back in the win column. Tip-off for the home game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

“I have six games to watch this weekend and the Super Bowl,” Ollison said laughingly of the game film he intends to dissect. “St. Paul Lutheran is the next game and that is what we’ll worry about. We’ll worry about the district tournament after we get done playing Eldon for the last game of the season. It is what it is and it will take care of itself if we start executing.”

Meanwhile, Osage (12-8, 2-0 Tri-County Conference) will play host to state-ranked Tri-County Conference foe Southern Boone (16-1) who is ranked No. 2 in Class 3 on Tuesday at 5 p.m. After a little bit of a lull over the holiday break, Schnicker thinks his team is heading in the right direction over the final stretch of the season.

“We peaked a little early in the year and went on a little bit of a lide around the hiliday break. It is always a tough part of basketball that you know you are going to have some ups and downs,” he said. “But we talked about getting on the right track and I think we are heading that way. They are trusting the process and trusting the system now.”

Of the five regular season games left on the schedule, three finished at the top of the Tri-County Conference Tournament in January so the Indians will not be taking anything for granted as they go find out what they are made of.

“We are obviously going to have to play our best basketball yet to compete in our conference,” Wheeler said of the team’s future opponents. “We got a really good conference obviously with Southern Boone and Blair Oaks so it is going to take everything that we got.”

Time will soon tell if Osage is up to the task.