VERSAILLES – Four starters from last year’s state runner-up squad will return to the lineup this season for the Versailles girls basketball team.
The Tigers fell just short of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III state championship in March, losing 56-54 to Gilmour Academy. The Tigers lost six players to graduation from that team – Brynna Blakeley, Bailey Huffman, Emily Langenkamp, Kami Ording, Clair Schmitmeyer and Camille Watren – but they return a lot of talent.
Kami McEldowney, a four-year starter at point guard, returns for her senior season with the Tigers. Last year she led the team with 13.6 points per game and also added 3.3 assists and 2.6 rebounds a game.
Senior Ellen Peters, who also was a starting guard for Versailles a year ago, also returns for the Tigers. She averaged 3.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists last year.
Junior Elizabeth Ording is back after starting at forward last season when she averaged 7.8 points and 3.9 rebounds a game.
Danielle Winner, another four-year varsity player for Versailles, returns to man the other forward position. Last season she led Versailles with 5.0 rebounds per game and also contributed 8.7 points per contest.
The lone starter Versailles has to replace this year is Camille Watren, who averaged 5.5 points per game as a guard last season before shining in the state tournament with 11 points in the 2017 state championship game.
Versailles will look to senior Hailey McEldowney plus sophomores Danielle Kunk and Caitlin McEldowney to fill the void at guard this season.
At forward, the Tigers have senior Mallory Marshal and sophomore Lindsey Winner providing depth again this year after seeing varsity action last season. Marshal averaged 2.9 points and 1.2 rebounds a game last year while Lindsey Winner contributed 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds a game.
With her team, Versailles head coach Jacki Stonebraker likes the balance of guards and forwards. She’s also encouraged by her team’s senior leadership.
“(They) have been playing together for a long time,” Stonebraker said.
The biggest hurdle Versailles will face, at least early in the season, is a lack of practice time because of the school’s state championship run in volleyball. Many of the Lady Tiger basketball players – including all four returning starters – were part of the volleyball team that won the OHSAA Division III state championship less than two weeks ago.
“Late start to the season with the long volleyball tournament run so chemistry will be a struggle early on,” Stonebraker said.
But as Versailles gains experience, the Tigers will be one of the state’s most closely watched teams as they seek their fourth state final four appearance in the past five years – having won the Division III state title in 2015 and finishing as the state runner-up in 2014 and 2017.
To get ready for another long tournament run, Versailles will be tested in the always tough Midwest Athletic Conference.
“(I’m) excited for the season to start,” Stonebraker said. “It’s going to be another tough year in the MAC, which hopefully will make us strong for postseason.”
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.