By Rob Kiser
COLUMBUS — Versailles girls basketball coach Jackie Stonebraker had some emotion in her voice when she talked about her six seniors after their final high school basketball game.
And understandably so.
That class has been part of three trips to the Division III state championship game at the Schottenstein Center on the OSU campus.
Winning the title in 2015 — and finishing as runnerup in 2014 and on Saturday night after a heartbreaking 56-54 loss to Gilmour Academy in the title game.
But, Stonebraker won’t soon forget the contributions of Camille Watren, Brynna Blakeley, Emily Langenkamp, Kami Ording, Bailey Huffman and Clair Schmitmeyer and the legacy they leave behind in the Lady Tigers program.
“They are a special group,” Stonebraker said. “There isn’t one standout in the group, which is what I really like about them. There isn’t one of them that could do this on their own. They all get along, both on an off the court and are a really close group.”
Watren, the lone starter in that group — who made six 3-pointers in this weekend’s state tournament, echoed those sentiments.
“I know we couldn’t have done this with our class alone,” she said. “We needed everybody else. This has just been amazing. Yes, it would have been nice to win another state title today, but this really has been an amazing experience. It has just been such a great opportunity.”
Quick Study: Versailles couldn’t have done much more against a Gilmour Academy team that had knocked off defending state champion Africentric in the semifinals by 11 points.
“It is tough when you only have 12 hours to prepare,” Stonebraker said. “Because we like to break a lot of film down and go over things with the girls. But, we had one final practice today and the girls did a great job. My girls came out ready to play tonight.”
And the final 20 seconds — when Versailles came from seven down to almost send the game into overtime, may have stunned the crowd and Gilmour Academy — but Stonebraker would have expected nothing less from this group.
“We work on end of game situations all the time,” Stonebraker said. “The play at the end (after a Versailles steal with three seconds to go), it would have been a tough pass to catch — but really, we just did not have enough time left — that is what it was. There just wasn’t enough time.”
Racking up the wins: Stonebraker will always give the credit to her players.
But, she now has 270 wins in 14 seasons as coach — more than 19 per year.
Maybe more impressive — she has a 6-4 record in six state tournament appearances and two state titles — at a program that had never won a state tournament game when she took over.
Sisters-sisters: Versailles had six sets of sisters in the program this year.
“And two coaches daughters,” Stonebraker said with a smile. “I think it is great. I think it is just a lot of fun. Danielle and Lindsey (Winner) go up against each other every day in practice. Kami and Caitlin (McEldowney) go at it every day. Kami and Elizabeth (Ording) don’t play the same position, but they are talking to each other every day in practice, getting in each other’s heads and helping each other to get better.”
Danielle Winner smiled when asked about playing with her younger sister.
Danielle is a junior, while Lindsey is a freshman.
“I love playing basketball with my sister,” she said. “I can do things to her if I did at home, I would get in trouble. But, seriously, it is a lot of fun to play basketball with my sister.”
Don’t Lose The Directions: In the preseason this year, Versailles talked about how important it was to get back to the state tournament this year after a one year absence.
“I wasn’t there yet because I was still playing basketball,” Danielle Winner said. “But, I heard about it.”
Given that the Lady Tigers only lose one starter and the JV team was undefeated — the six seniors leadership will be badly missed.
But, it will be no surprise if the “Schottenstein” tradition with a group of seniors that will be led by Kami McEldowney, Danielle Winner and Ellen Peters.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.