VERSAILLES — Minster’s girls basketball team was scheduled to open the season two weeks ago. Thanks to COVID-19 scrapping games, the school’s boys team managed to play before the girls finally took the court.
After a two-week wait, the Wildcats showed they’re still among the state’s best Division IV squads.
After a close first quarter, Minster ran away to a 63-27 victory in a Midwest Athletic Conference game on Thursday at Versailles.
“We needed that. After four scrimmages, we were ready to play somebody else and get the season started,” Minster coach Mike Wiss said.
Wiss is entering his fourth year as the team’s coach. The squad won Div. IV state titles in his first two years as coach and was slated to play in a state semifinal last March before COVID-19 scrapped the remainder of the tournament. The squad finished 22-5 overall.
The Wildcats, which lost three players to graduation, are aiming for another state berth with nine returning letterwinners. Leading that group are senior guards Ivy Wolf and Janae Hoying, which were key players as freshmen during the team’s 2018 state title run.
Wolf led Minster with 30 points on Thursday, including 12 in the second quarter. Senior post Dana Prenger scored 11 points on Thursday while Hoying added eight.
“Ivy shot the ball super,” Wiss said. “She’s just a headsy kid, and we see that now. Janae and Ivy complement each other so well.”
Wolf averaged 19.1 points, five assists and five steals per game last year and was named first team all-Ohio in D-IV. Hoying averaged 11 points, four steals, three assists and three rebounds per game and was a third team all-Ohio selection.
“They’ve gotten strong,” Wiss said. “The weight room has been kind to them. I ask the rest of the girls in our program, from seniors on down to fourth graders, take note of that. With the physicality they’ve developed, all of a sudden you’re not shying away from stuff. You’re going into stuff because you’re physicality aids in your confidence.
“The second thing I’ve noticed is how smart they are on the floor. The knowledge of how to take advantage of what somebody gives you on defense is pretty good.”
Also back for the squad is junior forward Ella Mescher, Prenger and senior guards Jenna Heuker and Kate Larger.
Mescher averaged six points and four rebounds per game last year while Prenger averaged four points and four rebounds. Heuker and Larger each averaged two points per game.
Mescher and Prenger both improved as last season wore on according to Wiss.
“The development of the post game can really do wonders to the outside game for us,” Wiss said. “… Ella wasn’t on the floor long tonight and still had 11 points. That’s what she can be. We saw that towards the middle to the end of last year; she can complement (Wolf and Hoying).”
Minster was scheduled to face Wapakoneta in a nonconference game on Nov. 20. The Redskins had a COVID-19 outbreak and canceled the matchup — as did Minster’s next two scheduled opponents.
“Two and a half weeks in the making there,” Wiss said. “… Hopefully those games get rescheduled. We’ll still be okay, just a little bit later start.”
The Wildcats started slow and built a 13-9 lead over Versailles in the first quarter on Thursday but used a 12-0 run in the second to fuel a 22-7 scoring edge in the quarter that gave the team a 35-16 halftime lead.
Wolf then scored eight points in the third quarter to help lead a 15-5 scoring edge that boosted the lead to 29 points. The squad finished with a 13-6 scoring advantage in the fourth quarter.
“One thing we talked about at halftime was Versailles’ offensive rebounding,” Wiss said. “… It was a good first game, but the first thing we said after the buzzer sounded was we’ve got a lot to work on.
“Somebody that walks in here many think, ‘Well hell, you had two and a half extra weeks to practice. But that’s what the importance of games are, in my opinion.”
Brynn Briscoe and Abby Stammen each scored seven points for Versailles, which dropped to 1-3 with the loss.
The Tigers lost six seniors to graduation and have few returning letterwinners from last season’s 18-9 team, which won a D-III district title. Second-year coach Tracy White said he’s been impressed with the squad’s early improvement.
“We don’t have a lot of girls that have played varsity at this level, but the competition we’ve seen so far is some of the best in the state, so I think we’re doing a lot of really good things,” White said. “Our girls are getting better every day. They’re coming into the gym ready to work and hungry to get better.
“Their competitiveness comes out when they lose games like this. They don’t like to lose.”
Versailles lost 80-42 to D-IV power Tri-Village in a season opener and then lost 60-22 to Fort Recovery in their MAC opener. They picked up their first win last Saturday by beating Covington 66-36.
“When you play the best of the best at the beginning, you can only go up from there,” White said. “… The (Covington) game was a huge growth game for us, especially confidence-wise. It showed them that they can go do it.”
White said Stammen, a senior guard, and Briscoe, a sophomore forward, are both playing well early.
“Stammen worked her butt off offensive and defensively tonight,” White said. “She was communicating well to others. She’s become a great leader on the floor. Brynn Briscoe is quiet but she does a lot of the little things. She gets rebounds and gets in the right defensive positions.”
The Wildcats aren’t scheduled to play again until Thursday, when they’re slated to host neighboring rival New Bremen in a MAC game. They’re then scheduled to travel to neighboring rival Fort Loramie two days later for a nonconference showdown between two of the state’s top D-IV powers.
Versailles is scheduled to travel to Arcanum on Saturday.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.