By Rob Kiser
VERSAILLES — It was the marquee matchup of the season in girls basketball.
Versailles, 12-1 and ranked fourth in the state in D-III, hosted Russia, 12-1 and ranked third in the state in D-IV.
And both coaches were in agreement on one thing after Versailles girls held off Russia 56-46 in non-conference action.
“Absolutely (it is a good game to have),” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “To have this game and Tipp (Tippecanoe on Monday) before another tough MAC opponent.”
Russia coach Andy Timmerman agreed.
“That (Versailles) is a very good basketball team and it is good for us to play them,” he said. “There are just a few little things we have to work on and get fixed.”
Versailles never trailed in the game, getting off to fast starts in both halves.
With the imposing presence of 6-foot-2 senior Danielle Winner inside — and the shooting of Kami McEldowney outside — the Lady Tigers jumped out to a 17-7 lead and were still in front 19-12 at quarter’s end.
Winner and McEldowney combined for 17 of those 19 points.
“We did get off to a good start,” Stonebraker said.
Using a plethora of moves in the paint, Winner would score 15 points in the first half.
“She was a force on offense today,” Stonebraker said. “I think she was determined to show her cousin something. She had a great game. Maybe not quite as many rebounds as I thought she could have gotten, but she will really played well on offense.”
Still, the Lady Raiders battled back.
With Versailles determined to stop high-scoring guard Maria Herron, Laurissa Poling and Cameo Wilson were able to find shots inside.
They combined to score nine straight points to cut a 19-9 Versailles lead to 19-18 with 6:00 left in the half.
“They were pressuring our guards,” Timmerman said. “Laurissa (Poling) had a lot of points today and they (Laurissa Poling, Cameo Wilson) do a good job in there.”
Brynna Blakeley answered with a three, sparking a 14-2 run to close the half to give Versailles a 33-20 advantage at the break. Winner had seven points in that run.
“We gave up some offensive rebounds,” Timmerman said. “That allowed them to open the lead back up at the end of the half.”
McEldowney hit a three and Elizabeth Ording scored off a Winner assist to stretch the lead to 38-21 in the third quarter, but Russia would rally again.
Whitney Pleiman hit two threes as the Lady Raiders closed to within 42-33 by quarter’s end.
When Herron scored on a layup with 6:26 to go, Russia was back within 44-37.
But, that was as close as the Lady Raiders could get.
Camille Watren answered with a three for the Lady Tigers.
After an Elizabeth Ording basket inside and three by McEldowney, the lead was 52-39 with 3:55 to go and Russia never got closer than eight.
“The one shot I remember was the three by Camille Watren,” Stonebraker said. “That was a huge shot (to take the lead back to 10).”
Winner finished with 19 points and nine rebounds for the Lady Tigers, while McEldowney had 15 points, three assists and two steals.
Watren had four assists, while Ellen Peters had three assists and five steals.
Russia had 25 points from its two post players.
“We did a good job on the guards,” Stonebraker said. “But, I think we could have done a better job defensively inside. We have to get better there.”
At the same time, she was happy to hold Herron to four points.
Peters, Blakeley and Watren all spent time guarding her.
“They are all different types of defensive players,” Stonebraker said. “All different kinds of defenses. I think it kept her (Maria Herron) guessing on what they were going to do.”
Poling finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, while Wilson had 10 points and five rebounds.
Tiffany Hatcher had seven points, four assists and three steals, while Pleiman had four steals and Herron had three assists.
“They decided to pay a lot of attention to Maria (Herron),” Timmerman said. “We are probably going to see more of that in the future and have to learn to make adjustments to that.”
Versailles was 20 of 39 from the floor for 51 percent, including five off 11 from 3-point range for 46 percent. The Lady Tigers converted 11 of 17 free throws for 65 percent.
Russia was 17 of 41 from the floor for 42 percent, including three of nine from behind the arc for 33 percent. The Lady Raiders made nine of 14 free throws for 64 percent.
Versailles won the battle of the boards 28-20, but had 24 turnovers to Russia’s 20.
While Versailles travels to Tippecanoe Monday, Russia plays at Covington.
And both will be better off for having Saturday;s matchup.
Laurissa Poling 5-5-15, Tiffany Hatcher 2-2-7, Cameo Wilson 5-0-10, Whitney Pleiman 2-0-6, Maria Herron 2-0-4, Jenna Cordonnier 1-2-4, Shea Borchers 0-0-0. Totals: 17-9-46.
Kami McEldowney 5-2-15, Camille Watren 2-0-5, Ellen Peters 0-2-2, Elizabeth Ording 3-0-6, Danielle Winner 7-5-19, Brynna Blakeley 2-0-5, Emily Langenkamp 0-0-0, Kami Ording 0-0-0, Clair Schmitmeyer 1-2-4, Lindsey Winner 0-0-0, Mallory Marshal 0-0-0. Totals: 20-11-56.
3-point field goals — Russia: Hatcher, Pleiman (2). Versailles: McEldowney (3), Watren, Blakeley.
Score By Quarters
Russia 12 20 33 46
Versailles 19 33 42 56
Records: Russia 12-2, Versailles 13-1.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.