By Rob Kiser
COLUMBUS — The Versailles girls basketball team didn’t so much lose in the Division III state championship game against Gilmour Academy Saturday at the Schottenstein Center on the OSU campus — as much as time ran out on the Lady Tigers in a 56-54 loss to the Lancers.
And it wasn’t without a championship finish from Versailles, who finished at 26-4, while Gilmour closes at 24-5.
With 18.8 seconds to go, Versailles 6-foot-2 junior Danielle Winner stepped to the line with the Lady Tigers trailing 55-48.
While many fans may have given up hope — that description is not in the “Tigerball” handbook anywhere.
“A lot of people probably had already written us off in the final minute,” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “But, there is no quit in these girls. Really, we just ran out of time.”
Winner sank both free throws to make it 55-50.
After Gilmour guard Emily Kelley made one of two free throws with 16.8 seconds to go, the deficit was 56-50.
Versailles would score with 4.5 seconds to go on a Lindsey Winner rebound to make it 56-52.
The Tigers immediately called timeout and forced a five-second call.
Kami McEldowney would score off the inbounds with 2.5 seconds to go to make it 56-54 and lead it another Versailles timeout — and with Gilmour Academy’s 6—foot-2 post Naz Hillmon having picked up her fourth foul, there was something for the Lancers to sweat about.
“What we were hoping for, was another five second call,” Stonebraker said. “And our defense did a good job.”
But, Gilmour prevented that by lobbing the ball towards midcourt.
Versailles intercepted, but was unable to get a tying or winning shot off before time ran out.
“I think that just shows how much heart we have,” Danielle Winner said about the final comeback. “We still believed we could do it.”
And for the better part of three quarters Versailles had Gilmour Academy — who played 10 Division I schools, beat D-IV state champion Berlin Hiland and had close losses to D-I state champion Mount Notre Dame and D-II state runnerup Hathaway Brown — on the ropes.
The Lady Tigers came out firing from the 3-point line in the early going.
Camille Watren again — like Friday in the semifinals — made a trio of 3-pointers in the opening half.
“I think part of that was I was just feeling a lot more comfortable over here after playing here two years ago,” Watren said. “I felt a lot more confident.”
When Kami McEldowney drilled a three from the corner late in the first half, Versailles led 26-21.
And despite shooting just eight from 27 in the first half — including four of 19 on two pointers, Versailles led 26-23 at the break.
“They camped the big girl (Naz Hillmon) inside so we couldn’t do much in there,” Stonebraker said. “We missed some shots inside early on.”
At the other end, Versailles kept Kelley — the all-time 3-point field leader in Ohio quiet for the most part — but it came at a price.
Hillmon, had 12 points and nine rebounds in the first half and finished with 24 points and 17 rebounds.
“We did a good job on her (Emily Kelley),” Stonebraker said. “That probably left Hillmon open more. But, when you are playing Gilmour, you are going to have to give up something.”
Danielle Winner did everything she could do to make Hillmon earn her points.
“She is a really good player,” Winner said. “She can go around you — she can jump over you. Give her all the credit.”
In the second half, Gilmour’s defense began to take a toll.
Versailles, who had one turnover in the first half, had 10 in the final two quarters.
“I thought their guards did a good job trapping us and pressuring us,” Stonebraker said. “They really defended us well in the second half.”
The Lancers pulled even at 37 after three quarters, then opened the fourth quarter with a 12-4 run. It was capped by one of Kelley’s two 3-pointers on that night to make it 49-41 with 3:23 to go.
It was a stretch Versailles could never recover from — despite the amazing rally in the final 20 seconds.
“Again, that was a stretch where we just didn’t do the things we needed to do on offense,” Stonebraker said.
Danielle Winner finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, while Watren had 11 points and six rebounds, to go with four assists.
McEldowney had 10 points and four assists, while Kami Ording had three assists and Lindsey Winner grabbed six rebounds.
Kelley added 11 points to the Lancers cause, while Sarah Bohn had 10 points and Annika Corcoran dished out four assists.
Versailles was 18 of 53 from the floor for 34 percent — and made six of 16 from behind the arc for 38 percent.
The Lady Tigers converted 12 of 18 free throws for 67 percent.
Gilmour made 20 of 42 shots from the floor for 48 percent, including five of 15 from 3-point range for 33 percent.
The Lady Lancers made 10 of 19 free throws for 53 percent.
Despite Hillmon, Versailles won the battle of the boards 36-28.
That included 19 offensive rebounds — with Danielle Winner pulling down six offensive boards and Elizabeth Ording grabbing four.
“I didn’t feel like we won the rebound battle,” Stonebraker said. “Because we don’t have someone that is going to average 10 or 12 rebounds. That is not who we are. We won all the hustle plays (like offensive rebounds).”
Both teams would finish with 11 turnovers.
“You know, there were some possessions where we needed to value the ball in the second half,” Stonebraker said. “If the ball bounces different on some of those offensive rebounds, if a few things go differently, if we value our possessions — it could have turned out differently.”
Instead, Versailles simply ran out of time.
Kami McEldowney 3-2-10, Camille Watren 3-2-11, Ellen Peters 2-2-7, Elizabeth Ording 3-1-7, Danielle Winner 4-5-13, Brynna Blakeley 0-0-0, Kami Ording 0-0-0, Clair Schmitmeyer 1-0-2, Lindsey Winner 2-0-4. Totals: 18-12-54.
Gimour Academy (56)
Naz Hillmon 11-2-24, Sarah Bohn 3-2-10, Emily Kelley 3-3-11, Annika Corcoran 1-2-4, Sydney Diedrich 1-0-3, Grace Mullen 0-0-0, Emma Gurley 1-1-4. Totals: 20-10-56.
3-point field goals — Versailles: McEldowney (2), Watren (3), Peters. Gilmour: Bohn (2), Kelley (2), Diedrich, Gurley.
Score By Quarters
Versailles 12 26 37 54
Gilmour Academy 12 23 37 56
Records: Versailles 25-4, Gilmour Academy 24-5.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.