SPRINGFIELD – The Versailles Lady Tigers had no trouble advancing to Columbus with their fourth regional championship in the past five years with a convincing 59-32 win over the Waynesville Lady Spartans Saturday to reach the final four.
“It never gets old,” said Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker of the team’s return to the final four. “I look at these girls and I see all the smiles on their faces and this is just – it’s incredible. These girls just know how to win and they know how to battle.”
The Lady Spartans held leads at 2-0 and 4-2 before Versailles took advantage of an 8-0 run and never look back holding a lead that would continue to mount the remainder of the game.
“I had a heart to heart with them yesterday because I just didn’t feel the excitement in the air,” Stonebraker noted, “and I’m like; ‘are we just settling for getting to a regional, is this ho hum, is this everyday action?’ And I kind of got on them about it and a spark hit them. I think especially the seniors that this is it. We only have three more games left if we keep winning and once they’re done they’re done, and I think that proved it tonight with how much fire and grit that they played with.”
Senior floor leader Kami McEldowney led the opening period with five points including a 3-pointer, Danielle Kunk drained a three, Caitlin McEldowney hit a basket and Elizabeth Ording went 2-2 at the line to give Versailles a 12-6 lead after one quarter of play.
Versailles took the second quarter 20-13 paced by seven Danielle Winner points, Hailey McEldowney with six including a 3-pointer, Kunk nailing her second trey of the game and Kelsey Custenborder and Kami McEldowney each going 2-2 at the line sending the teams to the break with the Lady Tigers holding a 32-19 lead.
“She’s lights out here – she loves this place,” Stonebraker said of sophomore Danielle Kunk. “She’s on these last two games and we need it out of her.”
The smothering Versailles defense held the Waynesville girls to four third-quarter points while putting nine points in the scoring column to lead 41-23 with one period to play.
The Lady Tigers put the game away early in the fourth opening with a 10-0 run and pushed its lead to 30 with a 55-25 score on their way to a 27 point win.
Versailles was a perfect 10-10 in the first half and perfect at 10-10 in the fourth quarter to finish the game 23-26 at the free throw line for 88 percent shooting.
“We hit the free throw line a lot tonight,” said Stonebraker. “We went up there and focused on the rim and put them in.”
While Versailles was getting to the line, the Lady Tigers were getting their share of fouls called against their scrappy defensive play.
“That’s the thing that works for us too,” Stonebraker noted. “We are so deep we can pull a couple kids off the bench and they can do just as much as what the kids out there can do. I felt like that worked in our favor because they got into foul trouble and they didn’t have as many answers as what we did to their bench.”
Kami McEldowney led the Lady Tigers with a game high 17 points including a perfect 8-8 at the charity stripe.
“She is incredible, she just knows the game of basketball so well,” Stonebraker said of her four year starter and floor general, Kami McEldowney. “She’ll point out things to me that I don’t see and every once in a while she’ll ask for that play call, and I tell her, run what you want to run, you’re a four year starter, run what you want to run and she does. She commands the respect and she’s got it out there.”
With the win, Coach Stonebraker notched her seventh regional championship in 15 years at the helm of the Lady Tigers varsity basketball team and was quick to give credit to her players.
“It’s the girls that I have,” Stonebraker stated. “It’s incredible that they can just keep withstanding the pressure. We talk about pressure every year. If you don’t have it, how you going to get better.”
“That’s what we want to do – keep getting better and you have to do that with pressure on your back,” added Stonebraker. “It’s the kids. The kids are from great families and they respond. They know how to respond to pressure.”
VERSAILLES 59, WAYNESVILLE 32
LADY TIGERS – K. McEldowney 17, D. Winner 11, D. Kunk 10, H. McEldowney 6, K. Custenborder 4, M. Marshal 4, E. Peters 3, C. McEldowney 2, E. Ording 2 – TOTALS 12 23-26 4 59
LADY SPARTANS – R. Murray 8, T. Ritter 6, A. Rains 5, M. Sizer 4, L. Webb 3, C. Brown 2, L. Hartshorn 2, K. Rentz 2 – TOTALS 9 8-12 2 32
Versailles 4 (D. Kunk 2, K. McEldowney 1, H. McEldowney 1)
Waynesville 2 (A. Rains 1, L. Webb 1)
SCORE by QUARTERS:
12-20-09-18 59 Versailles
06-13-04-09 32 Waynesville
PHOTO CAPTION: Kami McEldowney scores two of her game high 17 points for Versailles in OHSAA D-III regional championship win over Waynesville. (Gaylen Blosser photo)