By Rob Kiser
COLUMBUS — Versailles girls basketball coach Jacki Stonebraker could see it before the game ever started.
“My girls came to play today,” Stonebraker said after Versailles’ 58-34 win over Winchester Eastern in the Division 3 state semifinals at Schottenstein Center Friday afternoon. “They were really focused.”
Which meant there was little chance for Winchester Eastern, 26-2.
Versailles, 26-3, will now play Gilmour Academy, 23-5, in the state championship game at 5:15 p.m. Saturday.
After executing Stonebraker’s script to perfection, Versailles is in the state championship game for three times in four years.
“What we wanted to do was wear them down,” Stonebraker said. “It wasn’t going to happen in the first quarter — it wasn’t necessarily going to happen in the second quarter, but it was going to happen. Eventually there was going to be a point where it happened.”
And that point probably came midway through the second quarter, following an amazing sequence by Danielle Winner and Kami McEldowney.
Elizabeth Ording had scored in the middle of a 15-2 run to give Versailles a 20-13 lead with 3:45 remaining in the half. First, McEldowney was able to get to a tipped pass from Winner and drill a 10-foot jumper at the 3:00 mark. Then, 35 seconds later, Winner stepped in front of a Warriors pass and took it the length of the court for a layup. Winner completed the sequence with a basket at the 1:57 mark after a spectacular pass from McEldowney through traffic to make it 26-13.
“It’s is just so much fun to make plays like that over here in this arena,” McEldowney said with a smile, referring to the Schottenstein Center. “It’s just a lot of fun.”
Versailles took a 26-15 lead to the locker room and with Elizabeth Ording scoring six points in the third quarter, the Lady Tigers stretched the margin to 41-26 as Eastern never got the deficit back to single digits after Versailles’ big run.
And for all the things Versailles was able to do at the offensive end, Stonebraker said the difference was at the other end.
“Defense,” she said. “We thought about changing up our defense today and we didn’t have to. Everybody who guarded Allison Day (a 6-1 junior) did a great job on her. She is a really good player. We did a good job being aware of Alexa Pennington (a 6-1 sophomore) shooting three-pointers and we had Ellen Peters, who is 5-8, guarding a 6-1 girl. Our defense was just amazing today.”
The game started with Camille Watren hitting her first three 3-point attempts and McEldowney added one, breaking an 11-11 tie and giving Versailles a 14-11 lead after one quarter to set up their big run.
“That girl (Watren) has ice in her veins,” Stonebraker said. “They were aware of Kami (McEldowney) and weren’t going to let her shoot. So, those three-pointers were huge.”
The other story was on the boards.
Eastern, who goes 6-1, 6-1, 6-foot across the front, won the battle but lost the war.
The Warriors won the rebound total 34-31, but Versailles had 16 offensive rebounds to Eastern’s 11 and outscored the Warriors 19-11 on second chance points and 26-14 in the paint.
Danielle Winner had seven, McEldowney and Watren had five each and Elizabeth Ording had four. Winner, Watren and Ording all grabbed three offensive rebounds.
“We’ve been pretty dominant on the boards this year,” Stonebraker said. “And we’ve faced big girls, but not three at one time like Eastern had. That’s a credit to our scout team. They make them finish on every play in practice and box out for the rebound.”
Danielle Winner had 14 points and three steals, while Watren also scored 14 points. McEldowney and Elizabeth Ording each finished with 11.
Day had 11 points for Eastern and Morgan Reynolds scored 10.
Versailles was 19 of 41 from the floor for 46 percent, including five of 12 from three-point range for 42 percent. The Lady Tigers made 15 of 20 free throws for 75 percent.
Eastern was 13 of 38 from the floor for 34 percent, and just three of 12 from behind the arc for 25 percent. The Warriors made five of six free throws for 83 percent.
Versailles had 10 turnovers to Eastern’s 15 and outscored the Warriors 22-5 on turnovers.
And in the end, the result was predictable.
Versailles (58) — McEldowney 11, Watren 14, Peters 2, E. Ording 11, D. Winner 14, K. Ording 2, Schmitmeyer 2, L. Winner 2.
Winchester Eastern (34) — Reynolds 10, Day 11, Farris 4, Pennington 7, Sowers 2.
Score by quarters:
Versailes` 14 ` 26 ` 41 ` 58
Eastern`11 ` 15 ` 26 ` 34
Three-pointers: Versailles 5 (Watren 3, McEldowney 2); Eastern 3 (Reynolds, Day, Pennington).
Records: Versailles 26-3, Eastern 26-2.
Next game: Today, state championship in Columbus vs. Gates Mills Gilmour Academy, 5:15.