SPRINGFIELD – Versailles beat West Liberty-Salem 46-37 Wednesday night, putting the Lady Tigers just one win away from their third consecutive trip to the state final four.
“I’m really proud of these girls,” Versailles girls basketball coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “We were written off last year, and then we made it back to state. I really felt like we were written off this year after losing nine previous seniors the year before and then four last year. I really think that these girls are just hungry. They want to make their mark on the Versailles program.”
The Lady Tigers continued to make their mark on Wednesday by shutting down West Liberty-Salem’s big offensive threats. Versailles held Jamie Peterson, a 6-foot 4-inch first team all-district honoree who averages 15 points a game, to just six. And Lily Yoder, an honorable mention all-district player who averages 13 points a game, managed just five on Wednesday.
Offensively Versailles dominated inside with 5-foot 8-inch Lauren Monnin leading the way. Even though she’s 8 inches shorter than Peterson, Monnin still managed to score a game-high 19 points.
“She carried the whole team,” Stonebraker said of Monnin’s first quarter performance when she scored nine points. “And even throughout the whole game we felt like she could go against Peterson. There’s a point I think Peterson was guarding her, and she scored six points right over her so they had to change their defense and put a guard on her.”
Monnin got Versailles started by scoring the Tigers’ first six points of the game. And after West Liberty-Salem took a lead late in the quarter Monnin drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to put Versailles up 14-13.
West Liberty-Salem hit its fourth 3-pointer of the game early in the second quarter to go up 16-14, but then Danielle Winner went to work for Versailles and scored seven points to help the Darke County squad go into halftime up 24-22.
“She played great sick, didn’t she? You’d never know it out there,” Stonebraker said. “She had to take a couple breaks, but I felt like we needed her in the game to defend Peterson.”
Mikalia Mcintosh drained her third 3-pointer of the night early in the third quarter to put West Liberty-Salem up again, this time 25-24, but just like before Versailles bounced back and regained the lead with a 10-0 run, making it 34-25.
Peterson, who only scored two points in the entire first half, made a pair of baskets late in the third quarter. That combined with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Gabby Hollar had West Liberty-Salem within six, 38-32, entering the fourth quarter.
With a basket by Yoder and another 3-pointer by Hollar, West Liberty-Salem cut Versailles’ lead to a single point, 38-37, midway through the fourth quarter.
Then with less than three minutes remaining and Versailles clinging to a small lead, Kami McEldowney was aggressive and drove to the basket to break Versailles’ scoring drought and put the Tigers up three.
“That was a huge layup that she made, kind of off-balance,” Stonebraker said. “As coaching staffs we’re a little bit more patient with the ball, and they’re attacking the rim. So I’m glad we’re young, I’m glad we do that kind of stuff because I think I would have lost that game if I was playing.”
In the final three minutes Versailles outscored West Liberty-Salem 8-0 with six points from McEldowney and two from Monnin to secure the 46-37 victory and advance to the regional championship game.
“They shot a little bit better than we did from the outside,” Stonebraker said. “I felt like we took it at Peterson today. That’s where we won the game, is inside the paint.”
Monnin led Versailles with her game-high 19 points while McEldowney scored 10, Winner scored seven, Kristin Langston scored six, and Ellen Peters scored four.
Mcintosh led West Liberty-Salem with nine points while Hollar scored eight, Peterson scored six, Kelsey Day scored five, Yoder scored five, and Taylor Lauck scored four.
Versailles now advances to play Marion Pleasant, who beat Bethel-Tate 48-20 in the other regional semifinal in Springfield.
“They’re a very aggressive team defensively, and they’re very aggressive offensively,” Stonebraker said of Pleasant. “They like to get to the hole. They like to score. We’ll see what our defense can come up with. I’m not real sure what we’re going to do because quite frankly I didn’t look past this game.”
The regional championship game will be played at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Springfield High School. The winner will advance to next week’s Ohio High School Athletic Association state tournament in Columbus.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.