By Rob Kiser
SPRINGFIELD — It was what sets the Versailles girls basketball program apart from the rest.
Advancing to the regional finals is a dream season for many programs.
Versailles sees it as a step to the state tournament — and the few times they lose, like Saturday’s 48-35 loss to Marion Pleasant in the Springfield D-III regional finals — it means an early end to the season.
It ended the Lady Tigers run as defending state champions at 21-7 and means for the first time since 2013, Versailles won’t be playing in the Final Four next week. Marion Pleasant improved 26-2 and will play Gilmour Academy at 11 a.m. Thursday in the state semifinals.
It was an end to the outstanding careers of Lauren Monnin, Kristin Langston, Logan Shimp, Haley Winner and Emily Marshal.
“Other people may not have expected this from this team, but the girls did,” Versailles coach Jackie Stonebraker said. “They worked really hard to get back here. Those seniors are a special group.”
And when Monnin got off to a hot start Saturday, there was no reason to think it wasn’t going to be another trip to the state tournament.
She had eight points — including hitting her first three shots — as Summer Blevins struggled to guard her.
As a result, Versailles led 14-5 late in the first quarter.
But, the Lady Spartans switched up their defense and Versailles made just seven of 35 shots the rest of the way.
“Lauren (Monnin) got off to a quick start when they had (Summer) Blevins guarding her,” Stonebraker said. “That was a good exchange on their part.”
Versailles went eight minutes without scoring as Pleasant ran off 10 straight points.
While making just one of nine field goal attempts in the second quarter, the Lady Tigers still led 19-18 at halftime after two free throws by Kami McEldonwey.
Pleasant took the lead on a three by Kamryn Kimmel to start the third quarter and Versailles never regained the lead.
A basket by Danielle Winner off an inbounds play got Versailles within 32-27 going to the fourth quarter.
But, the Spartans scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter — Versailles didn’t score until Langston’s three at the 3:54 mark — and the Lady Tigers never recovered.
“We couldn’t get the ball inside,” Stonebraker said. “And when we did get shots, we couldn’t hit them.”
Monnin led Versailles with 14 points, while Winner had seven points and five rebounds and McEldowney added six points and six rebounds.
Three players scored 42 of the Spartans 48 points.
Hannah Peltier hit four threes and scored 16 points, while Kimmel had two threes and scored 15 points and Blevins added 11 points.
Karmen Linder and Jaden Mauk both grabbed eight rebounds.
Versailles was 13 of 45 from the floor for 29 percent and eight of 10 from the line for 80 percent.
Pleasant was 17 of 31 from the floor for 55 percent and eight of 12 from the line for 67 percent.
Pleasant won the battle of the boards 21-18 and 18 turnovers to Versailles’ 14.
For Versailles, there is plenty of talent returning, along a strong eighth grade group coming in.
“That’s true, but we are going to miss those seniors,” Stonebraker said. “That is a special group.”
Which added to the legacy of a special program.
Kami McEldowney 2-2-6, Camille Watren 0-0-0, Kristin Langston 1-2-5, Danielle Winner 3-1-7, Lauren Monnin 6-2-14, Ellen Peters 0-0-0, Clair Schmitmeyer 1-1-3, Kami Ording 0-0-0, Logan Shimp 0-0-0. Totals: 13-8-35.
Marion Pleasant (48)
Hannah Peltier 5-2-16, Summer Blevins 4-3-11, Kamryn Kimmel 5-3-15, Karmen Linder 1-0-2, Jaden Mauk 1-0-2, Leah Maniaci 1-0-2, Ashley Anderson 0-0-0. Totals: 17-8-48.
3-point field goals — Versailles: Langston. Marion Pleasant: Peltier (4), Kimmel (2).
Score By Quarters
Versailles 14 19 27 35
Marion Pleasant 9 18 32 48
Records: Versailles 21-7, Marion Pleasant 26-2.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.