SPRINGFIELD – Versailles’ quest for a third consecutive trip to the state final four ended Saturday as the Lady Tigers lost 48-35 to Marion Pleasant in the regional finals of the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament.
The Tigers dominated the first quarter of Saturday afternoon’s game but couldn’t hold the state’s 10th ranked team in check the final three quarters.
“We were playing well,” Versailles girls basketball coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “We were playing as a team. They didn’t know what hit them. Kind of hit them in the mouth at the beginning of the game and then they came back and we could never recover.”
Versailles started the game on a 14-5 run, which included an 8-0 stretch midway through the quarter. Lauren Monnin led the early charge with eight points while Danielle Winner scored four and Kami McEldowney added two.
“We had a feeling they would put (6-foot junior Summer) Blevins on (Monnin) because she’s our next tallest girl (after Danielle Winner),” Stonebraker said. “But I knew that Lauren was smarter, quicker, could get to the hole on her and even back-screen her a little bit, and that’s what we did. We got her open. And once they put a different defender on her, Lauren couldn’t take it as easily to the hole. We struggled on the boards tonight. We got killed on the boards offensively and defensively. We couldn’t make a shot; that hurt. And they were hitting a lot of shots against us. It was their night. It was their day. Kudos to them.”
After scoring the final two baskets of the opening quarter to cut Versailles’ lead to 14-9, Pleasant began the second period with Kamryn Kimmel powering a 6-0 run to put the Spartans up 15-14.
Versailles finally broke a scoreless drought that lasted the first five-and-a-half minutes of the quarter with a Clair Schmitmeyer free throw and then got two points each from Monnin and McEldowney to hold a one-point lead, 19-18, entering halftime.
“I just didn’t feel like we were on the same page,” Stonebraker said. “Our whole court was off-balance.”
Pleasant continued to build momentum in the third quarter and began the quarter on a 9-2 run, taking a 27-21 lead that it would hold the rest of the game. Versailles got baskets from Schmitmeyer, McEldowney, Monnin and Danielle Winner in the third but found itself trailing 32-27 entering the fourth quarter.
“We couldn’t get anything rolling either offensively,” Stonebraker said. “They shot well, but offensively for us we could not … we were standing. We were standing around expecting things to happen, and it wasn’t happening.”
Versailles’ spiral continued in the fourth quarter as Pleasant went on a 9-0 run in the first four minutes of the period, putting the Tigers in a 41-27 hole. After scoring 14 points in the first eight minutes of the game, Versailles only had 13 points in the next 20 minutes.
“Everything was clicking for them, and it wasn’t for us,” Stonebraker said.
Versailles never recovered from the double-digit deficit, falling 48-35 to end its season as the regional runner up with a 21-7 record.
“I’m so proud of them,” Stonebraker said. “I’m so proud of how they clicked together. Starting 4-4 and being 0-3 in the (Midwest Athletic Conference), being at the bottom of the MAC, was disheartening. It was a reality check, and they kept fighting.”
Monnin led Versailles with 14 points in Saturday’s regional championship game. Also for the Tigers, Danielle Winner scored seven, McEldowney scored six, Kristin Langston scored five, and Schmitmeyer scored three.
Hannah Peltier led Pleasant with 16 points, which included four 3-pointers after making just 16 threes in the team’s first 27 games of the season. Also for the Trojans, Kimmel scored 15 points, Blevins scored 11, Karmen Linder scored two, Leah Maniaci scored two, and Jaden Mauk scored two.
“They’re a very dynamic team,” Stonebraker said. “They got a lot of firepower from a lot of different kids. They’re tough to beat on a day like today.”
Saturday’s loss marked the end of the high school basketball careers of Versailles’ five seniors – Langston, Emily Marshal, Monnin, Logan Shimp and Haley Winner.
All five were key pieces to the team’s success, Stonebraker said.
“I’ll take this team,” she said. “I’ll take these 14 players we have on this tournament team over any other team. They came together. They lost together. They won together. They were truly a team this year.”
And as she fought back tears, Stonebraker remained very optimistic about the future of the program.
“We want to be back,” she said. “We will be back. We’re going to keep coaching these girls and continue to get better.”