By Kyle Shaner
SPRINGFIELD — Versailles claimed a spot in the state final four on Saturday afternoon by dominating Greeneview with a 57-32 regional championship victory at Springfield High School.
With the regional championship win Versailles advances to play Proctorville-Fairland, who beat Garaway 52-46 on Saturday, in the Division III state semifinals at 3 p.m. Friday at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
“Regional champs, it’s unbelievable,” Versailles girls basketball coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling. It was like this four or five years ago when we did it that year. But I just feel so blessed to have the team that we have today.”
Versailles’ offense was clicking throughout the game with 10 players contributing to the team’s scoring output. The Lady Tigers also used their depth on defense to wear down the Rams as Versailles qualified for the state tournament for the first time in five years.
Versailles only trailed once in the regional final as Greeneview’s Ashton Lovely, The Associated Press’ Division III Southwest District player of the year, drilled a 3-pointer to open the game’s scoring.
But Versailles quickly responded by going inside with its starting post players, Emily Harman and Christa Puthoff, scoring five straight points.
After Lovely drove to the basket to tie the game at 5-5, the Lady Tigers clamped down and took control. They didn’t allow Lovely, a University of Cincinnati commit, to score the rest of the first half as they played tight defense on her throughout the game.
“I told Katie (Heckman), I said even if you don’t score, you are wearing her down,” Stonebraker said. “You are wearing her down physically and mentally.”
Versailles used its depth to its advantage as the Lady Tigers used full-court press defense to wear down Greeneview. Multiple Lady Tigers combined to slow down Lovely and the rest of the Rams.
“We just kept going at her,” Stonebraker said. “We just kept going at her, never let her rest.”
Greeneview struggled to get any clean shots because of the Versailles defense. The Lady Tigers, meanwhile, continued to attack the rim with Puthoff, Harman, Lauren Bruns, Chloe Warvel and Heckman combining for an 11-2 run to end the opening period with Versailles leading 16-7.
“We really wanted to put the pedal to the floor,” Stonebraker said.
In the second quarter Brooke Pothast, Bruns, Rachel Kremer and Olivia Schlater added an outside scoring threat to the Versailles offense as the Tigers outscored the Rams 17-6 to increase their lead to 33-13 by halftime.
With the game fully in Versailles’ control, the Lady Tigers maintained their 20-point advantage in the third quarter. Lovely got going and scored all 11 of the Rams’ points in the period, but the Tigers still led 44-24.
Versailles increased its lead to as many as 26 points in the fourth quarter, eventually finishing with a 57-32 victory to qualify for the state final four.
Harman led Versailles in the regional final victory with 12 points. Also for the Lady Tigers, Bruns scored 11 points and Heckman nine.
Lovely led Greeneview with a game-high 18 points.
Versailles enters the state tournament playing some of its best basketball of the year, having beat its last three opponents in the tournament — Georgetown, Miami East and Greeneview — by a combined score of 167-92.
“This three-game stretch has been some of the best basketball I’ve seen us play minus the second half of the Miami East game,” Stonebraker said.
Since beating Arcanum 64-56 in a sectional championship game on Feb. 20 for its first sectional title in four years, Versailles has been playing very well, Stonebraker said.
“I think they were trying to get through the sectional because there was a monkey on their back,” she said. “I really felt like once we got that Arcanum win, that sectional win, we got the district win, we just kind of kept going with the momentum.”
The winner of Friday’s state semifinal game between Versailles and Proctorville-Fairland will play either Columbus Africentric or Smithville one day later for the Division III state championship.
This will be Versailles’ sixth trip to the state final four — 1992, 1998, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2014. The Lady Tigers won the state title in 2008.
Greeneview (32) — Kristen Combs 1, Alexandra Rice 4, Natasha Siebenaler 2, Ashton Lovely 18. Sydnie Sonneman 2, Sophie Sonneman 3, Kim Swearingen 2. Totals: 11-7-32.
Versailles (57) — Rachel Kremer 5, Chloe Warvel 2, Amanda Winner 6, Olivia Schlater 2, Courtney Prenger 2, Lauren Bruns 11, Brooke Pothast 6, Christa Puthoff 2, Emily Harman 12, Katie Heckman 9. Totals: 24-6-57.
Score by quarters:
Greeneview 7 13 24 32
Versailles 16 33 44 57
Three-pointers: Greeneview 3 (Lovely 3); Versailles 3 (Kremer, Bruns, Pothast).
Records: Greeneview 24-4, Versailles 23-3.