COLUMBUS — The tears in the interview room after Versailles’ 53-47 loss to Columbus Africentric on Saturday at the Schottenstein Center from seniors Danielle Winner and Kami McEldowney were not so much about losing the Division III state title game game as much as they were about saying goodbye to their basketball “family”.
Winner and McEldowney — along with Ellen Peters, Hailey McEldowney and Mallory Marshal — played their final basketball game on Saturday.
The seniors finished with over 100 wins on the basketball floor. There are only 88 regular season games in a four-year period.
“I can’t even tell you the last time a Versailles athlete had 100 wins,” Versailles girls basketball coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “And it is not just basketball — whether it is track, softball, cross country, volleyball — you name it — these girls have had a lot of success.”
Winner and McEldowney were part of the team that won a state championship as freshman — and were Div. III state runner-up the last two years. They, along with Peters and Marshall, were also part of the volleyball team that won a D-III state title last fall.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Winner said about playing in the state championship game three times in four years. “I know I have one sister (Lindsey Winner) on the team, but they are all my sisters. We are like family.”
And it should have come as no surprise with Versailles trailing by double digits in the third quarter, McEldowney literally willed the team back into the game. She hit three 3-pointers and hit another that was waived off because of an offensive foul. The Tigers came all the way back to take a one-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
“That’s just what you have to do,” McEldowney said. “You can’t ever give up. This team wasn’t going to quit.”
And while a few failed possessions at the end — along with a great opponent — didn’t lead to a state title, as always it was a championship effort from Versailles.
And like last year, took a monumental effort to stop them.
“These two (Kami McEldowney, Danielle Winner) were part of the team that won three years ago,” Stonebraker said. “They did everything they could to get us back here — and they did. But, it was just them (in the senior class). Mallory Marshal is such a great kid. She has great hands and really pushing everyone in practice.
“Hailey McEldowney, what a great kid and a great teammate. I can’t say enough about her. And Ellen Peters — we are really going to miss her defense next year. She plays with so much heart.”
And juniors Elizabeth Ording and Kelsey Custenborder — along with sophomores Lindsey Winner, Caitlin McEldowney and Danielle Kunk and members of the 20-plus win JV team — showed promise throughout the year for a bright future for Versailles.
And while it has always hard to say goodbye to the seniors, it may be a little tougher this year.
“These girls (seniors) have been playing together for eight years,” Stonebraker said. “They played as much basketball as they could. They all love each other. That is what made this group so special and fun to coach.”