By Rob Kiser
SPRINGFIELD — The chants from the Versailles student section of “No School Friday” started midway through the fourth quarter.
Versailles junior point guard Kami McEldowney did a “victory tour” along the baseline — hugging family and friends — after cutting down her strand of the net at Springfield High School.
The rest of the Versailles players were celebrating with family, friends and fans who had made their way down to the court.
That’s right, it’s March and Versailles girls basketball team is headed back to the state tournament — for the sixth time since 2007 — with a convincing 50-33 victory over top-ranked Summit Country Day, who came in to the game 27-0.
The Lady Tigers, 25-3, will play Sardinia Eastern, 26-1, at 3 p.m. Friday at the Schottenstein Center.
And there was a little deja vu involved Saturday — two years ago, Versailles had defeated an unbeaten Summit Country Day 41-24 before going on to win the school’s second state title with Jacki Stonebraker as coach.
“I wouldn’t say that (two years ago) gave us confidence,” McEldowney, who scored a game-high 17 points Saturday, said. “It just feels great to be going back to Columbus for the state tournament (after being there as a freshman). I am so excited.”
And it went exactly the way Stonebraker had scripted it — and the way the way it had went two years ago — the shooting of McEldowney and 6-foot-2 junior Danielle Winner, who added 16 points — stunned the Lady Knights early and the Lady Tigers got a great team effort at the defensive end, jumping out to a 31-12 halftime lead and never looking back.
“It is funny you should mention two years ago — I looked at that tape last night,” Stonebraker said. “We wanted to score the ball early — we wanted to punch them in the mouth, so to speak — and that was exactly what we did.”
Danielle Winner had a little different way to put it.
Winner was 6-for-8 from the floor in the first three quarters — and a perfect 4-for-4 from the line.
“I was so ready to play today,” Winner said. “I couldn’t wait to get back out on the court. We just wanted to put the pedal to the metal.”
McEldowney hit two threes in the first quarter — one from each corner — and Daneille Winner added seven points inside.
Sophomore post Elizabeth Ording had four points — off a Camille Watren assist and a putback — and Clair Schmitmeyer would score off a Brynna Blakeley steal as Versailles would take a 21-7 lead after one quarter.
Blakeley had two assists in the second quarter as the Tigers stretched the lead to 31-12 at halftime.
“Danielle (Winner) had a big game,” Stonebraker said. “But, don’t discount what the other post players were doing to help make that happen. And all our guards did a great job.”
And Blakeley and Kami McEldowney hit threes in the second quarter after SCD had gotten within 23-11.
“Kami (McEldowney) hit so many big shots,” Stonebraker said, about her point guard who had to deal with SCD’s relentless pressure as well. “That (the pressure) is why we tried to get Kami off the point at times to give her a break.”
McEldowney didn’t mind.
“Hitting the shots — I think it gave the whole team confidence,” McEldowney said with a big smile. “The pressure is nervewracking at times, but that is okay.”
And she had one thought at halftime with a 19-point lead.
“We have to keep scoring — we can’t let them catch up,” McEldowney said.
That was no concern as the Versailles defense frustrated Summit all game.
Southwest District Player of the Year Raven Alexander made just three of 15 shots and didn’t make a field goal in the second half — and the Lady Knights were just four of 21 from the floor in the first half.
Versailles led 40-20 after three quarters and never let SCD back in the game.
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” Stonebraker said. “We did a good job of chasing them — a couple of our offensive players, we let stay off of them a little bit. But, we just wanted to stay back on them and we did.”
Ording added eight points and five rebounds to the Versailles cause, while Danielle Winner grabbed eight rebounds and Kami McEldowney pulled down five.
“Coach, talked to us about matching their (Summit Country Day) effort,” Winner said. “She told us we have to want it more than they do.”
Alea Harris led SCD with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Alexander finished with 11 points.
Versailles was 18 of 40 from the floor for 45 percent and 10 of 12 from the line for 83 percent.
Summit was 11 of 42 from the floor for 26 percent and nine of 18 from the line for 50 percent.
Versailles won the battle of the boards 30-18, but had 21 turnovers to SCD’s 13.
“Some of our guards got in there and grabbed some big rebounds today,” Stonebraker said. “They were as big on the boards as our post players.”
And after a disappointing loss in the regional finals a year ago, the Lady Tigers are headed back to Columbus.
“We talked about that — no woulda, shoulda, coulda,” Stonebraker said. “We didn’t want to feel the way we did after last year (losing in the regional final). We didn’t want to feel that way again.”
After all it is March — which means no school Friday and the Lady Tigers are back in the D-III “Final Four”.
Summit Country Day (33)
Kiana Allen 0-0-0, Niah Woods 1-1-3, Alea Harris 4-3-12, Meghan O’Brien 0-0-0, Raven Alexander 3-5-11, Rachel Martin 2-0-5, Kerri Daniel 1-0-2. Totals: 11-9-33.
Kami McEldowney 5-4-17, Camille Watren 0-0-0, Ellen Peters 0-0-0, Elizabeth Ording 3-2-8, Danielle Winner 6-4-16, Brynna Blakeley 1-0-3, Kami Ording 1-0-2, Clair Scmitmeyer 2-0-4, Lindsey Winner 0-0-0, Caitlin McEldowney 0-0-0, Emily Langenkamp 0-0-0, Bailey Huffman 0-0-0, Mallory Marshal 0-0-0. Totals: 18-10-50.
3-point field goals — Summit Country Day: Harris, Martin. Versailles: Kami McEldowney (3), Blakeley.
Score By Quarters
Summit Country Day 7 12 20 33
Versailles 21 31 40 50
Records: Summit Country Day 27-1, Versailles 25-3.