VERSAILLES – Versailles advanced to the sweet 16 of the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament for a fifth consecutive season, but this year the task proved to be much more challenging.
The past four years the Versailles girls basketball team won its district championship games on average by more than 39 points. On Monday the Tigers had to overcome a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter before beating Purcell Marian by just 5 points.
“It took a lot of fight, a little bit more fight than it has in the last couple years, but I wouldn’t want to do it any other way,” Versailles senior Ellen Peters said.
The scare in the district finals has Versailles more focused as it prepares to enter the regional tournament on Wednesday.
“Our mindset always coming in is playing our game and just coming out big, and I think we didn’t really do that tonight,” senior Kami McEldowney said. “I think here on out that’s going to push us to come out huge.”
Versailles’ next opponent is Williamsburg, whom the Tigers will face in the regional semifinals at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Springfield High School.
The Tigers only have one day of practice to prepare for the Wildcats, but they’re hopeful their experience will help them get ready in the condensed time frame.
“We’ve been through it enough,” Versailles girls basketball coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “We can’t control those things. We just have to go out and play. We’ll figure it out.”
Stonebraker left Monday’s district championship game in Springfield planning a late night of film study to prepare for Williamsburg, but the Tigers think looking at themselves instead of their opponent will be key to the quick turnaround.
“Just play our game, not worry so much about the other team but worry about ourselves because what we’re able to do is better than what any other team is able to do to us,” Peters said.
After winning their first three tournament games on average by more than 52 points, Monday’s game against Purcell Marian provided a wake-up call for Versailles as to what it needs to do the rest of the tournament to be successful.
“We can’t be too comfortable in the beginning,” senior Danielle Winner said. “We have to come out strong each and every time.”
The sectional tournament didn’t provide much of a challenge for Versailles, but now that they’re in the regionals the Tigers expect all their opponents to challenge them just like Purcell Marian.
“It’s been a little bit tough the past couple games just because the competition level hasn’t been quite what we’re used to, but this game was definitely a turnaround from that,” Peters said. “I guess it came as a little bit of a shock at the beginning, but we turned it around, and now we know how to play and what the rest of the tournament is going to look like.”
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.