By Rob Kiser
VERSAILLES — Versailles girls basketball coach Jacki Stonebraker knew no matter what happened Tuesday night — her team was going to be in for a big challenge — and learn a lot — when Tippecanoe visited the Tigers gym.
It was a clash of the defending D-III state champs and the D-II regional runnerups from a year ago.
And Versailles battled hard to the end — but Tippecanoe was just too good on this night in a 54-48 victory.
“This is the kind of game you look for and we had it in our third game,” Stonebraker said. “Tipp (Tippecanoe) is a really good team. We knew that coming in. We just need to continue to do the things we are doing well and work on the things we need to get better at.”
After being down by double digits late in the first half, Versailles got within four early in the fourth quarter and stayed close the rest of the way.
“It is a mentality these kids have,” Stonebraker said. “They never stop battling.”
Versailles had early leads of 3-0 and 5-2, before Tippecanoe began to take control.
While Tipps’s defense didn’t allow Versailles to get many good looks at the offensive end, Tipp was able to start creating open shots in the paint and get numerous second chance points as well.
“Rebounding is something that killed us tonight,” Stonebraker said. “They (Tippecanoe) have eight seniors and it showed. They just did such a great job moving the ball. They were so quick, we weren’t ready for that. They surprised me with how quick they were. We were definitely rushing shots at the offensive end.”
With Carly Clodfelter scoring 14 points in the opening half, Tipp had widened a 15-10 first quarter lead to 27-16 late in the first half. Just before the buzzer, Kristin Langston stole the ball and banked in a three to make it 27-19 at the break.
“Kristin (Langston) was really excited about that shot,” Stonebraker said. “It got everybody pumped up.”
Versailles came out in a box-and-one on Clodfelter in the second half, with Clair Schmitmeyer, Ellen Peters and Camille Watren sharing the role. Clodfelter was held without a field goal in the second half and scored just points.
She played just 41 seconds in the fourth quarter before fouling out with 3:07 to go.
At the same time, the Lady Tigers began to claw their way back in the game. Baskets by Danielle Winner and Kami McEldowney to start the fourth quarter had Versailles within 34-30 with 7:20 to go.
After and offensive rebound on a missed free throw, Sammie Rowland buried a three. Aubrey Cox added four points to open the lead to nine, but McEldowney and Winner scored on offensive rebounds to get Versailles within 41-36 when Clodfelter fouled out.
Again, the Lady Red Devils were up to the challenge and Versailles never got any closer.
Clodfelter led Tipp with 16 points and six rebounds, while Allison Mader had 14 points and six rebounds.
Cox added 11 points and nine rebounds.
Winner had a career-high 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds, while McEldowney had 10 points and six rebounds. Versailles lost starter in Lauren Monnin late in the first half with an unknown injury to her left arm.
Tipp was 18 of 52 from the floor for and 14 of 27 from the line for. Versailles was 19 of 41 from the floor for and seven of 12 from the line for
Versailles had 19 turnovers to Tipp’s 10.
The Lady Tigers will get another challenge Saturday when Covington visits.
“They are 3-0,” Stonebraker said. “They are quick and can shoot the ball, so we are going to have to be ready. Then we go into MAC play with Minster.”
Which in the end, like Tuesday, is only going to make the Lady Tigers better.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.