Girls basketball: Late rally earns Versailles regional final berth


SPRINGFIELD — The basketball season is still alive for the Versailles. The Tigers completed a fourth quarter comeback to win 45-41 against East Clinton in a Division III regional semifinal on Wednesday at Springfield High School.

Coach Tracy White said while the team couldn’t claim a lead in the middle of the game, it kept itself in the game. Once the fourth quarter rolled around, Versailles was able to seize control of the game.

“The girls overcame a lot. They kept battling back and kept battling back. It felt like once we got close, we just couldn’t hit some shots and we let them get a lead again. We just kept working ourselves out of the hole,” White said. “To get the job done when that happens, says a lot to our girls.”

Early on, Versailles had a 6-5 lead in the first quarter. East Clinton closed out the quarter on an 8-0 run.

At halftime, the Astros had a 20-17 lead. The three point shooting from East Clinton was the difference in the first three quarters. They had five made threes in the first half.

White said they knew East Clinton was a confident shooting team. No matter if the players were right behind the 3-point line or five feet behind it, the Astros were letting it fly. For Versailles, all they had to focus on is staying close to the shooters and control what they could control.

”We talked about they’re going to knock down those shots. All you can do is continue to fight the screens, get a hand in their face and then box out to only allow them to one shot,” White said.

After the third quarter, East Clinton had a 30-26 lead. Versailles had chances to take a lead on an offensive rebound or on a possession, but they just had untimely missed shots and turnovers that hurt them.

The Tigers also couldn’t get much offense going in the post. White said East Clinton did a great job doubling players like sophomore Taylor Wagner and not letting her get a shot off.

The defense helped the team stay in the game. White said playing a great defense can help the team be flexible with their shooting percentage. Versailles can win games if they are in a shooting slump.

At the end of the third quarter, East Clinton missed a layup at the buzzer that would have gotten them a six-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

White said a made layup there could have felt like a dagger. Instead, Versailles were only within four points and still felt confident.

Versailles started to get the offense rolling in the fourth quarter. White said the team kept grinding on offense and eventually tired out East Clinton enough to get the ball into the post.

Wagner started to get a few points and Versailles claimed their first lead since the first quarter with a 35-34 lead early in the fourth quarter.

While East Clinton responded right back with a three point shot, Versailles kept grinding. The team started to get to the free throw line often in the fourth quarter. The team had 17 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter. They were 11 for 17 in the quarter from the charity stripe.

Junior Allison Schwartz was able to score down low late in the fourth to give the team a 41-39 lead. Eventually, Versailles had to make free throws to win the game.

Junior Cassie Leach made two free throws to put the Tigers up three. Leach also made a crucial play as she got an offensive board off a missed free throw late in the game. White said the team takes pride in their rebounding and it showed in the game.

White also said Leach and sophomore Grace Osborne are the teams strongest free throw shooters. Osborne did not play in the game at all until Versailles needed their free throw shooters as she is coming back from an injury.

Osborne was fouled and had a chance to ice the game from the free throw line with about three seconds left. She drained both free throws to put the game out of reach.

“Grace just doesn’t get to the line enough. Something in my gut told me Grace is going to make those free throws. As a sophomore, it’s huge for her,” White said.

Jenna Dirksen led the team with 11 points. Wagner and Schwartz each had 10 points. Wagner scored all 10 in the fourth quarter.

Versailles will take on Columbus Africentric on Saturday in a regional final in Springfield. Africentric beat Cincinnati Country Day, which earned a D-IV state final four berth last season, 49-40 in Wednesday’s first semifinal in Springfield.

White said this team has accepted their roles and has put in the extra time and effort to get better outside of practice. They have surpassed White’s expectations.

“I truly felt like this team was a special team in regards to sectional, districts and things like that. They’ve grown way past that. They have exceeded everything that I could imagine,” White said.

Reach Greenville Daily Advocate sports editor Drew Terhall at [email protected].

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