COLUMBUS – Versailles made a furious comeback attempt in the fourth quarter Saturday evening but fell just short as the Tigers lost 56-54 to Gates Mills Gilmour Academy in the Division III state championship girls basketball game.
The first three quarters of Saturday’s Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament game were a close battle with neither team leading by more than 5 points at any point. But in the fourth quarter Gilmour Academy built a 10-point lead and still led by 6 with less than 10 seconds remaining.
Versailles had a chance to win as the final seconds ticked down – getting a steal at midcourt with three seconds remaining to set up a potential winning shot – but simply ran out of time.
“We didn’t have enough time,” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “Really we didn’t have enough time. We needed about two or three seconds more.”
With the loss Versailles, which was making the program’s eighth appearance in the state final four and fourth appearance in the state championship game, ended the season as the Division III state runner up with a 26-4 record.
“We wanted that state championship so bad,” junior Danielle Winner said. “To know that we can all get on the same page as each other and work hard, it just shows how great of a team we really are and how close we are.”
The lead changed 10 times in Saturday’s game at The Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center in Columbus with the tone being set early.
Gilmour Academy began the game with a 3-pointer, which was answered by Versailles senior Camille Watren. After Gilmour regained the lead, Watren sank her second 3-pointer of the day to give the Tigers their first lead.
“Yesterday when I hit my first three 3s, it just gives me confidence going into this game,” Watren said. “I knew I could do it, and I knew I had experience on this court. I wasn’t used to it, but I’ve been here before so I think that experience helped me to stay not as nervous I guess and just be a little bit more comfortable from the perimeter.”
Gilmour once again took the lead and went up 12-8 before Versailles finished the period on a 4-0 run to tie the game at 12-12.
Versailles regained the lead early in the second quarter with post players Elizabeth Ording and Danielle Winner leading the charge. Then late in the quarter Watren and Kami McEldowney drained outside shots to build a 5-point advantage, Versailles’ biggest of the game.
Versailles was able to limit the effectiveness of Gilmour’s outside shooters, which helped the Tigers build a 26-23 halftime lead, but the trade-off was Naz Hillmon was able to cause problems inside. The 6-foot 2-inch junior almost had a double-double in the first half with 12 points and nine rebounds.
“I thought that Versailles played really tough defense, and they didn’t give us that many 3-point opportunities,” Gilmour coach Bob Beutel said.
Gilmour tied the game up at 37-37 in the third quarter, setting up a dramatic finish.
In the fourth quarter Gilmour got off to a quick start, scoring 14 of the first 18 points to build a 51-41 lead.
“We missed assignments,” Stonebraker said. “I think two girls ran into each other and left No. 4 (Emily Kelley) outside on the corner for a 3 at one point – our two girls ran into each other. And then we didn’t run a great offense for us at that time.”
Down by 10 points with just 2:50 remaining, Versailles started its comeback run. In the next two minutes Danielle Winner made a basket then Ellen Peters drained a 3-pointer and made two free throws to cut the deficit in half, 53-48.
With less than 20 seconds to go and Versailles down by 7, Danielle Winner made two free throws. After a Gilmour free throw made it a 6-point game, Lindsey Winner scored with approximately five seconds remaining to reduce the deficit to just 4 points, 56-52.
Versailles’ defense then came up big, forcing a five-second call on Gilmour’s inbounds attempt, giving the Tigers the ball with 4.7 seconds remaining. On their inbound pass the Tigers found McEldowney for a layup, reducing the deficit to just 2 with three seconds to go.
“I really felt throughout the entire game we won the battle of the hustle plays, and we played with everything we had out there,” Stonebraker said.
On the ensuing inbounds play Versailles’ pressure forced Gilmour to heave the ball to midcourt, where Versailles got a steal. The Tigers tried to pass the ball forward to set up a winning shot but couldn’t get an attempt up as they lost 56-54.
“Those are the things we practice at least once a week, twice a week, are end of game situations so it’s nice to see something like that transfer onto the court and show them how useful those end of game situations are, and now I can take that into the next upcoming years and say, ‘Hey, look, lost by 2. We had this chance. Let’s make sure that we learn from it,’” Stonebraker said.
Danielle Winner led Versailles with 13 points in Saturday’s state championship game. Also for the Tigers, Watren scored 11 points, McEldowney scored 10, Elizabeth Ording scored 7, Peters scored 7, Lindsey Winner scored 4, and Clair Schmitmeyer scored 2.
Hillmon led Gilmour Academy with a game-high 24 points and 17 rebounds.
“Credit to her, she’s an amazing post player,” Danielle Winner said.
Also for the Lancers, Kelley scored 11 points, Sarah Bohn scored 10, Annika Corcoran scored 4, Emma Gurley scored 4, and Sydney Diedrich scored 3.
Saturday marked the end of the high school basketball careers of six Versailles seniors: Brynna Blakeley, Bailey Huffman, Emily Langenkamp, Kami Ording, Clair Schmitmeyer and Camille Watren.
“To go out like this, of course I wanted to win gold today, but to go out like this with my team, I wouldn’t want it to be with any other class,” Watren said. “It was amazing.”
Versailles’ seniors were part of three state final four teams, winning the Division III state title in 2015 and finishing as the state runner up in 2014 and 2017.
“Pretty good class, eh? Not bad,” Stonebraker said. “And there’s no standout. That’s what I love about them. They all play together. They all love each other on and off the court. They couldn’t have done it themselves. Not one girl could have done it themselves, but because they worked as a team they made themselves one of the elite classes that have gone through.”
The Lady Tigers have a special group of girls, Stonebraker said.
“It’s just that closeness and that tight-knit family, the girls that are friends all the way through high school that really get close,” Stonebraker said. “It’s not just the sisters. It’s everybody hanging out together and having a lot of fun.”
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.