CASSTOWN — Trailing by eight with 2.8 seconds left in the third quarter, Miami East had to go for the home run.
Versailles had other ideas, though.
The Tigers, the defending Division III state champions, tipped away an in-bounds bomb pass and Versailles’ Kristin Langston came up with the ball, rattling in a half-court desperation 3-pointer, stunning the Vikings and breathing new life into the Tiger offense, which put away a 52-39 victory Saturday at Miami East.
“No, I didn’t. We were just playing hard until the clock ran out,” Langston said when asked if she thought she’d even get a chance with the ball at the end of the third. “I heard one of my teammates behind me yelling at me to shoot it, so I did. It went in, and it just got everyone excited.”
“It’s funny. I won’t say we practice that, but we do have a drill where we have to end it with a half-court shot,” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “I was so happy for her (Langston), that she got to use that in a game.”
It was the turning point in the game, too. After Versailles (5-4) took a 14-4 lead after the first quarter, the Vikings (4-3) fought back in the second. Behind freshman Morgan Haney’s 12 points and Amber Kinnison’s six off the bench, Miami East cut the Tigers’ lead to 23-22 at halftime — and even took a 24-23 lead on the opening possession of the third on a Haley Howard bucket inside.
“This group doesn’t hang its head. Ever,” Miami East coach Bruce Vanover said. “Even after they hit that 3 at the end of the third, one of the girls on the bench said ‘it’s only 11 points.’ This team never thinks it’s out of a game until it’s over.
“We’re not going to make any excuses about our age, how young we are, or getting a late start in practice before the season. We felt like we competed in this game because we did get back into it after the slow start.”
But Howard — who has been the Vikings’ leading scorer — and Bailey Miller both missed most of the first half in foul trouble, and Howard picked up her fourth foul on Versailles’ first possession of the third quarter, and Lauren Monnin hit a pair of free throws to give the Tigers the lead for good. The Vikings had three chances to tie the game with the score 26-24 early in the third, but turnovers proved costly — and Kami McEldowney drilled a pull-up 3 to begin an 8-0 Versailles run.
“Our struggle has been our offense in our past couple games,” Stonebraker said. “But that starts with our defense. When we get stops, we get a little more pep in our step, our screens are more solid. Hopefully we can just continue to play tough defense and that will work into our offense.”
Haney set up Megan Kinnison for a 3 that cut the lead to 33-29 late in the third, but a jumper by Kami Ording and a Monnin bucket inside extended the lead — and set up Langston’s big moment. From that point on, the Versailles offense ran like clockwork.
“We were up and down and couldn’t get our offense clicking,” Langston said. “We needed something like that to spark us. I think it just got everyone excited, gave us a shot of adrenaline.”
Versailles pushed the lead to as big as 17 points at 46-29 — a 13-0 run going back to the third — and the Vikings just couldn’t recover.
Monnin led the Tigers with 17 points and five rebounds, Langston added nine points, Ording and McEldowney each had six and Danielle Winner added six points and nine rebounds.
“If we do what we’ve been doing, keep playing team basketball and believe in ourselves — that’s the thing right now. Our confidence isn’t where it should be,” Stonebraker said. “It’s game nine and we’re still trying to find ourselves and figure out what it is we do best. But if we believe in ourselves, we’ll get there.”
Haney led all scorers with 20 points for Miami East and added six rebounds, five steals and four assists. Amber Kinnison finished with six points and five rebounds off the bench, Kyndall Hellyer had four points and six rebounds, Miller scored four, Megan Kinnison three and Howard only two.
“After last year’s sectional final, we left that game with a bad taste in our mouths,” Vanover said of a 65-31 loss to Versailles that ended last season. “We’re not leaving this game the same way. We competed well today. Our two toughest games this year, our leading scorer has had to learn to play through foul trouble. We’re a work in progress, but we went out and competed with them today.”
Versailles travels to Lima Bath Tuesday while Miami East travels to Mississinawa Valley Thursday.