MINSTER — Courtney Prenger had struggled to score inside against Versailles’ tall post players and had several shots blocked by 6-foot-2 junior forward Lindsey Winner.
Then Prenger nearly single-handedly took over doing what coach Mike Wiss said is her impression of former Seattle SuperSonic Jack Sikma, a 6-11 post player.
Prenger scored 15 points during an 18-0 run by Minster, which helped the squad turn a one-point deficit into an insurmountable lead in a 52-30 victory over the Tigers in a Midwest Athletic Conference showdown on Thursday.
Prenger, a 6-1 Xavier commit, led Minster with a season-high 27 points. She entered the game averaging 10 points per game.
“I think her reverse pivot, square-up-to-the-basket move (was the difference),” Wiss said. “It’s her Sikma move that we work on every day in practice. You reverse pivot and you square up and you see everything as opposed to playing with your back to the basket. It’s the Jack Sikma move.”
The victory gave Minster (17-1, 7-0 MAC) sole control over first place in the MAC. Versailles (13-5) was previously unbeaten to in MAC play but dropped to 7-1 with the loss.
It was the second tough loss this week for the Tigers, which dropped a close contest at West Liberty-Salem on Tuesday.
“The big lesson to take is that we can’t take a minute off,” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “We take a minute off, we get down on ourselves, and it starts to snowball. I felt like we came out well there in the third quarter when we got ahead, but towards the middle of the third, we took a couple of breaks, and that’s when they started to snowball on us. We just have to learn how to stay together.”
Minster led 22-19 at halftime but Versailles grabbed the lead midway through the third.
Prenger started the quarter with a basket to put Minster ahead by five points, but Hannah Barga, Kelsey Custenborder and Liz Ording scored consecutive baskets in the paint to put the Tigers on top 26-25 with 4:35 left.
The Tigers didn’t score the rest of the quarter, though, and Prenger took over.
Prenger scored inside with 4:06 left to put the Wildcats up, then Janae Hoying made a 3 from the left wing 35 seconds later to increase the advantage to four.
Prenger scored five more baskets before the end of the quarter, including a jump shot from just inside the 3-point line in the left corner with 14 seconds left to boost the lead to 39-25.
“Once she starts hitting, it’s hard to stop somebody like that,” Stonebraker said of Prenger’s hot streak. “We tried a couple of different rotations on her to give her different looks so she didn’t know what was going to be guarding her. …The first half, I don’t think she was as strong, but we let her get in too deep and let her make those solid moves that she does. She’s going to Xavier for a reason; she’s a nice player.”
Prenger made 1-of-2 free throws and then added another basket in the paint to push the advantage to 42-25. Ording broke Versailles’ scoreless streak with a free throw with 6:31 left.
“I think our running an open offense in the second half (helped the run),” Wiss said. “Instead of coming down in the three-guard look with two posts and trying to let Courtney move inside-out, we opened up the middle of the floor and went away from there and let her come to the ball. I thought that was important.”
Kelsey Custenborder scored the first basket of the game but Minster scored the next eight points — including 3-pointers by Ivy and Demaris Wolf. Versailles responded with a 6-2 run to pull within 10-8 but Minster stretched its lead to 14-11 by the end of the first.
Demaris Wolf opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer to push Minster’s lead to 17-11, but Versailles quickly got back in it. Winner made a put-back in the paint with 4:53 left, then Custenborder split a pair of free throws and Caitlin McEldowney made two foul shots with 3:04 left to cut the gap to 17-16.
The teams traded points until the final seconds of the quarter. Prenger knocked the ball away from a Versailles player but had to chase after it and save it from going out-of-bounds under Minster’s basket. She threw the ball behind her back, and Jessica Falk caught it and laid it off the glass with about 10 seconds left to give the Wildcats a three-point halftime lead.
Ivy Wolf finished with 12 points. Ording led Versailles with nine.
Minster travels to Ottoville next Monday for a rematch of last season’s Division IV state title game. The Wildcats beat Ottoville 63-48 after scoring the game’s last 16 points.
Versailles will host neighbor Russia on Saturday.