By Rob Kiser
VERSAILLES — The Versailles girls basketball team is back in a familiar position.
For the eighth time since 2006, the Lady Tigers find themselves in the D-III regional title game — and Versailles was the winner in five of the previous seven games, going on to win the state title in 2008 and last season.
“You can go all the way back to 2006 and 2007 (leading up to the state championship season),” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “We were building foundation on foundation. We just built and built on that success.”
And Stonebraker knows it will take everything they have at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Springfield High School to continue that success.
Versailles, 21-6, will play 25-2 Marion Pleasant for a berth in the Final Four next week.
“They are extremely quick and athletic,” Stonebraker said about the Lady Spartans.
Pleasant is led by 6-foot junior Summer Blevins.
Blevins averages 13.8 points, eight rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.
“I think she is different than any player we have gone up against,” Stonebraker said. “She shoots the three well, but she can get to the rim. She passes the ball really well and is a strong rebounder. She is a tough matchup.”
Jaden Mauk, a 5-7 senior, averages 9.1 points, while 5-7 senior point guard Kamryn Kimmel averages 8.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
“They have a dynamic point guard and there role players are all really good players,” Stonebraker said.
Versailles will counter with plenty weapons of its own.
Inside, the Lady Tigers feature 6-1 sophomore Danielle Winner and 5-8 senior Lauren Monnin.
Winner averages 10.68 points and 6.8 rebounds, while Monnin leads the team with 12.18 points per game and grabs almost five rebounds a game. The two have combined for more around 50 blocks this season.
They combined for 23 points in the paint against West Liberty Salem’s 6-4 Jamie Peterson in the regional semifinal win Wednesday, as well as multiple assists.
“I thought one of the keys is we got more good shots than West Liberty-Salem did,” Stonebraker said. “They shot the ball exceptionally well from the 3-point line, but didn’t get a lot of close shots. I think our posts pass the ball really well. With Danielle (Winner) she can see over the defense. Lauren (Monnin) just has a great feel for where to go with the ball.”
The Lady Tigers three guard attack includes 5-6 sophomore Kami McEldowney, 5-5 junior Camille Watren and 5-5 senior Kristin Langston.
McEldowney averages 10.48 points and had 51 steals and 66 assists in the regular season to lead the team. Watren and Langston are both dangerous 3-point shooters. They combined for 62 steals and 93 assists in the regular season.
“I think we match up pretty well inside,” Stonebraker said. “Their (Marion Pleasant) guards are really good. We are going to have to step up are game in that area.”
Against on Wednesday, Versailles bench played a key role when Watren picked up a second foul midway through the second quarter.
“Ellen Peters, Clair Schmitmeyer and Kami Ording came in and we didn’t miss a beat,” Stonebraker said. “Camille (Watren) is an important part of what we do and we still had the lead at halftime. Not only did Ellen (Peters) do the job on defense, she hit some big shots for us.”
Versailles defense came up big again, as the Lady Tigers finished the last four-plus minutes on an 8-0 run after WLS had closed to 38-37.
“We knew our defense was going to be a key,” Stonebraker said. “We talked about playing with intensity on the defensivc end at the end of games and we did that. Everytime we seemed to have no momentum, somebody would get open at the basket and hit a shot — or make a big play on defense.”
Stonebraker expects Pleasant to push the tempo Saturday.
“It could be (an up-and-down game),” Stonebraker said. “I think they want it to be. We can play uptempo, but we can play a number of different styles and this might be a game where we are better off playing a half-court game.”
If Versailles has one big advantage, the pressure of regional final is nothing new.
“Confidence — these girls just have so much confidence,” Stonebraker said.
Like the program, it just continues to build.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.