ANNA — Two big runs lifted Versailles over Anna in a nonconference game on Thursday.
Versailles used a big run in the last two minutes of the first quarter to take a double-digit lead, but the Rockets pulled within six points twice in the second. The Tigers dominated down the stretch in the fourth quarter, though, and prevailed 48-30 to improve to 10-1 overall.
The Tigers led 4-2 with three minutes left in the first and went on a 12-2 run to finish the quarter. Versailles then closed out the game with a 12-2 advantage in the fourth quarter.
Versailles’ offense didn’t work as well in the middle quarters, though. Anna (5-4) rebounded well and jumped in front of several passes. The Tigers also struggled for much of the game to get the ball inside to 6-2 forwards Danielle and Lindsey Winner.
“We had to run an offense in the fourth quarter — that’s really what it comes down to,” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “We like to shoot off the first pass or second pass, and we need to run an offense.
“Our plays will work. I told the girls if you just move the ball quickly down the perimeter, it’s going to be there. The team I put in there towards the end of the fourth quarter did just that.”
Anna’s defense didn’t let Versailles go on any other big runs like over the last two minutes of the first, but the Tigers’ defensive pressure prevented any rally. Outside of a few inside drives by freshman point guard Ella Doseck, points didn’t come easy for the Rockets.
That was the case in the fourth quarter. Macey Huelskamp scored a basket to pull Anna within 42-30 with about four minutes left, but that was the Rockets’ only basket in the period. The Tigers scored the last six points to close out the win.
“They changed some things up defensively on us and went with a little bit of zone,” Anna coach Jeff Maurer said. “I’ll be honest with you, we ran out of some gas towards the end, definitely. Ella barely left the floor, and by the end there, we knew we needed to get her off the floor.”
Anna outscored Versailles 15-12 in the second quarter and pulled closer in the third.
Doseck scored on a drive with 5:30 left to pull Anna within 30-24. Caitlin McEldowney hit a 3-pointer two minutes later to boost the Tigers’ lead to nine points, but Doseck cut the lead back to six at 34-28 after a basket on a drive with 57 seconds left.
Lindsey Winner hit a basket with 12 seconds left to give Versailles a 36-28 lead at the end of the third.
“We just got sloppy in the second and third quarter I felt,” Stonebraker said. “It didn’t feel like we played team basketball and didn’t share the ball. We stood and watched a lot of the second and third quarters. Their defense, their man-to-man, got at us. They got up in our grilles, and we got frustrated.”
Doseck led all scorers with 12 points but was visibly worn out by the fourth quarter and sat for most of the final minutes.
“As a freshman, she’s just growing and growing,” Maurer said. “She got to the middle a lot and was able to dish and get us some good looks. I’m really happy with her as a freshman and her maturity and how she’s getting us into the offense.”
Danielle Winner opened the fourth quarter with consecutive baskets to help the Tigers put the game away. She led Versailles with 10 points, while Kami McEldowney and Lindsey Winner added eight points each.
Huelskamp is Anna’s leading scorer for the season, but Maurer said she is playing through some lower back pain stemming from an injury sustained in a game against New Knoxville on Dec. 21. She finished with six points on Thursday.
Stonebraker said she was pleased the Tigers were able to contain Huelskamp but said Doseck showed some weaknesses in their defense.
“We just didn’t stay between her and the basket,” Stonebraker said. “Just a little bit of guard defense, just being a little more protective of the basket instead of letting her drive on us. Everything’s a learning experience… so lesson learned.”
It’s the kind of lesson that could help the Tigers later in the season. Versailles was the Div. III state runner-up last year and has played a strong schedule so far. Aside from three Midwest Athletic Conference games, the Tigers have faced strong nonconference competition against the likes of Lima Bath, Tri-Village and Fort Loramie.
The Tigers will face another Shelby County Athletic Conference team on Saturday at Russia (8-1).
“That’s why our schedule is packed with these good teams,” Stonebraker said. “We play SCAL teams and a lot of teams so we get a challenge every single game we come to. Anna is notorious for having great teams, and they never died tonight. They kept fighting to the end.”
Versailles led 5-2 with two minutes left in the first and finished the quarter on a big run. Caitlin McEldowney hit a 3-pointer with 1:49 left and Lindsey Winner followed on the next possession with a shot in the paint to push the Tigers’ lead to 10-2.
Hailey McEldowney hit a 3-pointer with 52 seconds left to push the lead to 13-2. Emma Freytag made an inside basket with 19 seconds left, but Kami McEldowney made a 3-pointer from the right wing with eight seconds left to give Versailles a 16-4 lead.
Maurer said he was pleased the Rockets were able to fight back after the poor start. He credited 6-1 senior forward Jada Rowland for helping defend the Winners well.
“We started out in that 2-3 zone because we knew their size was going to give us some problems,” Maurer said. “We kind of wanted to mix things up. When we made that run, we picked up man (defense), and I think our man got us playing a little harder on both ends of the floor.
“… Jada played her best game of the season for us. I kind of got on her at halftime and told her we needed her to step up and kind of take over as a senior. She rose up to that. She rebounded well for us, attacked the basket. I was real proud of the way Jada played.”
Anna’s four losses have come to New Bremen, Fort Loramie, Russia and Versailles, which have a combined record of 32-7. The Rockets play next on Saturday at Miami East.
“We’ve had a lot of close losses and would sure like for those close losses to be close wins, but I think we’re getting stronger and getting better,” Maurer said. “We told the girls in the locker room after the game that we don’t play a lot of easy teams. We’ve got a tough schedule and want it that way so when we get to the tournament we’ve been through some wars. We’ve definitely been through some wars.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.