COVINGTON — Anna and Versailles have played back-to-back in their first two sectional contests at Covington High School the last two Thursdays. Versailles has played the first game, and Anna coach Jeff Maurer has sat in the stands both nights and watched the Tigers.
Maurer knew a tournament rematch with Versailles was possible following the Rockets’ last-second one-point win over the Tigers on Dec. 27, as both squads are among the best in the Dayton Division III sectional.
After both Maurer and Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker place their squads in the same sectional bracket in the tournament draw earlier this month, a rematch became likely.
The Rockets did their part on Thursday to make the rematch a reality.
Anna dominated the last three quarters of a Div. III sectional semifinal and beat Greenon 52-26 to set up a rematch with Versailles, which blasted Springfield Northeastern 61-4 in Thursday’s first semifinal.
The teams will face off in a sectional final on Monday at 7 p.m. in Covington.
“It was a battle that first time and it’s going to be a battle again,” Maurer said. “… They’re looking good. Jacki will have them prepared and I’m sure will have some wrinkles thrown in. Hopefully we have a few good days of practice this week and get prepared and have a good showing on Monday.”
The No. 4 seed Rockets (18-4) had a hard time early with No. 10 Greenon (14-9). But after the Knights tied it 9-9 late in the first quarter, Anna finished the half with a 20-5 scoring advantage to take a 29-14 halftime lead.
Lauren Barhorst made three baskets and Ella Doseck made one in an 8-3 scoring advantage at the start of the third quarter that helped Anna push the lead to 37-17.
Barhorst, a 6-foot-2 junior forward, led Anna with 22 points. Doseck added 12 and Breah Kuck scored eight.
“It’s all about our defense, to be honest,” Maurer said. “Our defense feeds our offense. We had some of those problems early but we got them worked out, and I can’t say enough about all of our girls that helped. Amber Zimpfer, a sophomore, played a lot of minutes off the bench and played really great on defense.
“I was real proud of the way the girls responded and took care of the ball on the offensive end. That was a good team win today.”
Greenon junior guard Delaney Benedict led the squad with seven points. Junior guard Reagan Ware, who leads the team with an average of 12.7 points per game and has already surpassed 1,000 career points, finished with five.
“She’s a nice player,” Maurer said of Ware. “They’ve got a lot of nice players. (Benedict) really makes their offense go when she can go to the basket, which makes their outside shooters so much more effective. I thought we did a good job after that slow start of keeping the ball in front of us and boxing out.”
The teams struggled to score early on as they got used to each other’s defensive pressure. Doseck hit a 3 from the left wing with 1:52 in the first to put the Rockets ahead 7-4 but Lydia Henry made a basket from the right wing 19 seconds later to bring Greenon with 7-6.
Benedict completed a three-point play to tie it 9-9 with 46 seconds left, but Mary Landis scored a breakaway layup at the buzzer to give the Rockets a two-point lead heading into the second.
Landis’ basket was the first in a 17-2 run over the next seven minutes for Anna. Kiplyn Rowland opened the second with a 3 from the right wing, then Benedict made a basket to bring Greenon within 14-11 with 6:36 left.
Anna held the Knights scoreless over the next several minutes by limiting them to one-shot possessions. On the offensive end, the Rockets kept hitting 3s. Doseck hit a 3 from the top of the key, Barhorst made a basket in the paint and Breah Kuck hit a 3 to push the lead to 22-11 with 4:42 left.
Doseck made a 3 with 1:34 left and added a free throw with 1:05 left to push the advantage to 26-11. Both teams hit 3s in the final minute.
“Greenon’s a good ball team, and they have some good shooters and do a good job of spreading you out off the dribble with some ball screens,” Maurer said. “I thought to start the game, we were a little indecisive if we were going to be switching on them or staying with the girl. We weren’t doing a very good job of defending that ball screen.
“We called a timeout and talked about it, and they went back out and took care of it. I couldn’t be more proud of how they took control from there.”
Now Anna will try to take control against the Tigers. Doseck hit a game-winner at the buzzer in December to give Anna a 35-34 win in Versailles.
The Tigers have made the D-III state championship game three out of the last five seasons. They’re anchored by a trio of post players, led by 6-2 forward Lindsey Winner and 5-11 forward Liz Ording, who both average over nine points and seven rebounds per game.
“They’ve got a lot of bigs, and we’ve got to play fundamental defense and front that post and have backside help,” Maurer said. “We’ve got to close out on shooters. They’ve got a lot of different weapons and can beat you a lot of different ways. We’ll have to play our ‘A’ game in order to get that one.”