MARIA STEIN — Resilient.
That is the best way to describe Versailles’s girls basketball team. Last week, the Tigers had a lead on Miami East, but had to hold off the late-charging Vikings to preserve a four-point victory.
On Thursday, the Tigers trailed Midwest Athletic Conference host Marion Local for most of the game, but somehow overcame two 10-point deficits to tie the game and force overtime where they found a way to stun the Flyers with a 56-47 victory.
With the win, Versailles remains undefeated on the season at 7-0 and 3-0 in the Midwest Athletic Conference.
“It is definitely a huge win for us,” said junior guard Caitlin McEldowney, who scored 11 of her game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime period.
McEldowney’s 3-pointer with 20 seconds left in regulation tied the game at 42-42. It proved to be a back-breaking shot as Marion Local never led again.
“When my teammate found me I just knew I had the confidence to shoot it,” McEldowney said. “I knew one of my teammates would get the rebound, but of course I wanted it to just go in.”
Versailles had only connected on one other 3 in the game (by Liz Watren in the third quarter) having missed several other attempts, but that didn’t keep McEldowney from taking the shot.
“I wasn’t worried about shooting the three at that point even though we hadn’t hit too many in the game,” McEldowney said. “Throughout the whole game I was just thinking to myself to keep shooting because I knew my team had my back. Our game plan was to push it inside anyway because we have such strong players inside, but when we got down by several points we really needed to push the outside shot so we kept moving the ball quickly and found the open shot.”
While Marion Local (3-2 overall, 0-2 MAC) was able to slow Versailles post players Elizabeth Ording and Lindsey Winner on the offensive end, they couldn’t slow junior Brooke Stonebraker who was the teams’ second leading scorer with 12 points in the contest. Danielle Kunk also reached double figures for the Tigers with 10 points.
“These girls have a lot of firepower and have a lot of grit,” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “They have been down in games before and have come back so I wouldn’t count them out too easily.
“It is a credit to our defense really,” she continued. “We went to a little bit of a zone and that was a bad decision by me. We just haven’t practiced it enough with the rotations we had in to play that in that situation so we went back to a man and really got up in their grill and frustrated their guards. That got them out of rhythm and got us back in the game.”
As for the game-tying 3-pointer by McEldowney?
“Caitlin finally found her shot from the outside and it was so neat to see her hit that three to send it to overtime,” Stonebraker said. “It was such a big shot by her, and Liz (Watren) had one in the third quarter too that cut their lead to about three. It was just a team effort and everybody definitely did their part tonight.
“Liz (Watren) and Caitlyn Lutham played a lot of tough minutes tonight,” she continued. “They both sat down on defense and Caitlyn did a nice job on offense too getting the ball to our scorers and really taking it to the basket.”
Versailles had one last shot in regulation to win the game, but the ball rolled off the rim as the buzzer sounded. In the overtime period, Brooke Stonebraker gave Versailles a 46-44 lead with 2:41 to play.
Kunk stretched that lead to 48-44 with her deuce and then sank a pair of free throws a few seconds later to make it 50-44. McEldowney went to the line with 40 seconds on the clock sinking both to lift the Tigers to a 52-44 lead, and as quickly as Marion Local tried to in-bound the ball after McEldowney’s free throws Kunk stepped in front for the steal and easy layup to make it a 10-point margin.
Natalie Rethman hit a 3-pointer for the home team, but Kunk added another field goal for the final score of the game. Heidi Rethman led the Flyers with 15 points followed by Brooke Homan with 10. Natalie Rethman contributed 9 points in the loss.
“We just had to have grit trailing the whole game like that,” McEldowney said. “We had to work together and pick up our defense since our offense was lacking. We had to meet them at a certain point and then take it and not look back. It is tough living every game on the edge like that. I would rather not wait until the last second, but I am excited to get the win. It was a good win.”
Both teams return to action next week with Versailles hosting Lima Bath on Monday and Marion Flyer traveling to Russia on Tuesday.
Weaver can be reached at (937) 569-4316 or follow on Twitter at @skipweaver65.