COVINGTON – It was nearly two months ago when Anna snatched a one-point victory from Versailles back on Dec. 27.
The Versailles Lady Tigers waited all that time to seek revenge and that is exactly what they did on Monday night by dominating the Rockets 48-26 in a Division III sectional final in front of a packed out gym at Covington.
The win sends Versailles to the D-III district championship game for the fifth consecutive year. They will face Williamsburg at a time to be determined on Saturday, March 2 at Springfield.
“Absolutely it was one of the hardest sectional finals in recent years,” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “Anna is a great team, but when you lose to them on Dec. 27 – and the girls haven’t forgotten about that – it has been on your mind all the way through the season and then we get a draw where we could play in a sectional final that’s kind of what we have been thinking about the last month.
“The girls knew the game plan like the back of their hand and they really did a great job doing everything we told them to do,” she added.
Not only did the Tigers know the game plan like the back of their hands, they executed it almost flawlessly. It all started with junior Lindsey Winner turning Hannah Barga’s steal into the first points of the game by hitting a turnaround jumper on the baseline at the 7:34 mark. Winner would make that shot several more times in the game totaling 8 points for the Tigers.
“I was like come on just go in,” Winner said of that baseline jumper in the first quarter. “It was great, and what an amazing atmosphere to play in. There were people standing on the sides because they couldn’t find a seat. I get fired up when I see the crowd like that. I love the big crowds. It gets you pumped up. It sounds awesome to be moving onto district. I’m ready.”
The Anna-Versailles matchup with the middle of three sectional finals played at Covington on Monday. West Liberty-Salem defeated Miami East 58-46 in the first game followed by Versailles topping Anna 48-26 in the second game and then Waynesville capped off the tripleheader by beating Arcanum 59-39.
While 8 points may not sound like much considering junior Caitlin McEldowney led the team with 14 points, it wasn’t just Winner banging around on the baseline for Versailles. Senior Elizabeth Ording also ruled underneath the rim for her own 8 points giving the two 6-plus footers a combined 16 points in the post.
“Elizabeth and Lindsey didn’t really care who scored, they just shared the ball so well with each other,” Stonebraker said. “Lindsey was great. She took great shots from the outside and she hit some really tough shots over No. 24 (Kiplyn Rowland). It was just a great overall team win.”
The game was pretty close through much of the first half. Anna (18-5) led early 6-2 with a 6-0 run after Winner’s game-opening shot, but the Tigers (20-5) scored the next 8 points to grab a 10-6 lead. Ella Doseck scored her first basket of the game with 35 seconds left to make the score 10-8 at the end of the first period.
The second quarter saw a little more back-and-forth with Versailles extending its lead to 21-12 during a 9-0 run that took about two-and-a-half minutes off the clock. The Tigers went into the locker room with a 23-15 lead.
The defense was stifling in the second half for the Tigers as they held the Rockets to just 11 points the rest of the game.
Offensively, both Barga and McEldowney caught fire with Barga scoring all 6 of her points and McEldowney scoring 8 of her 14 in the frame. Barga kick-started the quarter with a layup and the foul to score three points to old-fashioned way at the 7:13 mark of the third. A minute later, McEldowney connected on a deuce and then followed up a Barga 3-pointer with her third triple of the game for back-to-back treys that helped Versailles increase its lead to a commanding 34-19.
“Hannah Barga really got us going in the third quarter. She hit two free throws and a three and just looked great,” Stonebraker said. “She was something like 0-for-5 last couple of games and she just turned it on today. Defensively, she played great in the first quarter and really frustrated them and that made them more cautious I think.
“I could go down the list,” she continued. “Caitlin was very confident in her 3-point shot and it was on tonight. She felt it and it felt good. She also did a great job of just taking care of the basketball.”
Stonebraker and Winner both talked more about how much that loss back in December played a part in this game.
“That is what got us going,” Winner said. “We cannot lose to them again. It is always going to be a good game with Anna so it is just great to be able to pull out the win.”
Stonebraker said her halftime speech was all about Dec. 27.
“I just kept talking about that last game and bringing that nightmare back up,” Stonebraker said. “We were up by 8 at halftime on Dec. 27 too, but they didn’t want that same feeling and they didn’t want their season to end tonight. I just told them we have another half to play and we have to put points on the board.
“The defensive effort was key,” she continued. “Doseck and Barhorst are their leading scorers, but not letting Kuck get any open shots at the basket was key and that is why we put Lindsey on her. That was a game-changer. Lindsey is so much longer and we thought she could stay with her.”
Doseck led the Rockets with 10 points followed by Barhorst with 6 points. Nine Versailles players reached the scoring column led by McEldowney with 14 points. Winner and Ording had 8 points apiece and Barga was next with 6.
“It feels so good to be back in the district,” Stonebraker said. “I love going to Springfield. It is a long trip, but we love going there and we love playing for medals so we have our work to do. Williamsburg has a great team again this year and we look forward to the game.”
Score by quarters
Anna – Michaela Ambos 2 1 5, Ella Doseck 4 2 10, Kiplyn Rowland 2 0 4, Lauren Barhorst 3 0 6, Lenna Rowland 0 1 1. Totals: 11 4 26.
Versailles – Liz Watren 1 0 2, Kate Griesdorn 0 1 1, Caitlin McEldowney 5 0 14, Hannah Barga 2 1 6, Rachel Lyons 1 2 4, Savannah Toner 1 0 2, Elizabeth Ording 3 2 8, Lindsey Winner 4 0 8, Kelsey Custenborder 1 0 3. Totals: 18 6 48.
3-pointers – Anna 0, Versailles 6 (McEldowney 4, Barga 1, Custenborder 1).
Records: Anna (18-5), Versailles (20-5).
The Daily Advocate sports editor Skip Weaver can be reached at (937) 569-4316 or by email at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @skipweaver65.