COVINGTON — Versailles is one of the tallest Division III teams in the state, with four players on the roster over 5-foot-11 and two over 6-2.
That height played a big role in a Div. III sectional final on Monday against Anna at Covington High School — but the biggest difference was made by Versailles’ shortest players.
The Tigers’ guards knocked down five of the team’s six 3-pointers and led a stellar defensive effort of Anna’s perimeter players in a 48-26 victory, which advances the squad to a D-III district final against Williamsburg on Saturday. It’s Versailles’ sixth consecutive district berth.
Junior guard Caitlin McEldowney led the squad with 14 points, 12 of which came on four 3-pointers. Junior guard Hannah Barga added one 3 and finished with six points.
“Those 3s were big because they were sinking down on us, and we knew they were going to underneath most of our on-ball screens,” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “… When we’re hitting outside, it makes for a great offensive night for us. ‘Wow’ is all I can say. It was our night to hit, and we took advantage of it.”
Both guards — in addition to senior Liz Watren — helped hold Anna standout guards Breah Kuck and Ella Doseck to 10 points, all of which came from Doseck.
It wasn’t all the guards, though. Senior forwards Liz Ording and Lindsey Winner each scored eight points and combined to hold Anna 6-2 junior forward Lauren Barhorst in check.
Barhorst, who scored six points, struggled to shoot after the 12 minutes of the game. All of the Rockets’ players struggled to rebound against Ording (5-11), Winner (6-2), Kelsey Custenborder (5-10) and Brooke Stonebraker (6-3).
“I just think everybody — defensively, offensively, on the bench — it didn’t matter,” Stonebraker said. “Everybody was doing their job. …A big thing was our post players rebounding off those 3s, reading where those balls are coming off the rim at. Rebounding is a skill, just like anything else.”
The teams were tied 12-12 midway through the second but Versailles scored the next nine points to take control.
Versailles (20-5) completely shut down Anna’s offense in the second half. The Rockets managed just two baskets and a pair of free throws in the third quarter and didn’t score for the first six minutes of the fourth.
The Tigers led 23-15 at halftime and pulled away in the third quarter, thanks in part to eight points by McEldowney.
After Doseck opened the quarter with a mid-range jumper to bring Anna within six points, Versailles went on an 11-2 run. McEldowney capped off the run with a 3 to put Versailles ahead 34-19 with 4:47 left.
McEldowney hit a 3 with 1:35 left to push the lead to 39-21, then Liz Ording opened the fourth with a basket to increase the advance to 20 points.
Anna was scoreless for an eight-minute stretch in the third and fourth quarters and didn’t score a field goal for over 12 minutes.
“We just smothered them defensively, and that goes out to our scout team,” Stonebraker said. “Our scout team did a great job of running their sets. We knew their sets like the back of our hand.”
Versailles will face Williamsburg on Saturday at Springfield High School. Williamsburg (19-4) beat East Clinton 58-38 in a sectional final on Monday in Wilmington to advance.
The Tigers, which finished as D-III state runner-up last season, beat Williamsburg 70-27 in a regional semifinal last season.
“Our girls our champions,” Stonebraker said. “They worked so hard during regular season just to keep their heads above water. They’re champions.”
The teams traded points early, but consecutive 3s by McEldowney and Custenborder gave Versailles a 10-6 lead with 3:45 left in the first. Doseck hit a jumper before the end of the quarter and opened the second with another to tie it 10-10.
After each team scored a basket, Versailles went on its big run to take control before halftime. Winner scored two baskets during the run, McEldowney hit a 3 and Watren made a basket.
The Rockets, which were the sectional’s No. 3 seed and beat Versailles on a buzzer beater in December, finish 18-5. They look to be one of the area’s best D-III teams next season with all but one player returning. Kuck, who averaged 8.1 points per game, is Anna’s lone senior.
Stonebraker said she was happy No. 4 Versailles faced a tough opponent after cruising to running-clock wins over Urbana and Springfield Northeastern in its first two sectional games.
“We finally got to play a game where the competition was so similar,” Stonebraker said. “Anna’s very similar to Versailles, and they will always be. They’re hard-working teams. It’s hard to put Anna down, and I thought in the third quarter we did a nice job putting the throttle down.”
Anna’s team bus left Covington before interviews with Versailles personnel were completed.
Versailles was 18 for 39 from the floor for 46 percent while Anna was 12 for 27 from the floor for 44 percent. The Tigers won the battle of the boards 20-13 and had just 10 turnovers to Anna’s 17.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.