By Rob Kiser
SPRINGFIELD — For the first time in the postseason, the Versailles girls basketball team found itself in a game in the second half Wednesday at Springfield High School in a D-III regional semifinal.
And the Lady Tigers would not have had it any other way.
Hamilton Badin was as close as three points early in the third quarter, before the Versailles defense took over and the Lady Tigers pulled away for a 50-36 victory. The Tigers had come into the game with an average victory margin of 50 points in the tournament.
Versailles, 24-3, will play the Summit Country Day, 27-0, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday with a berth in the state tournament on the line. SCD defeated North Baltimore Liberty Union 58-50 in Wednesday’s second game. Badin closes the season at 19-8.
“I like playing in these kind of games,” Versailles 6-2 junior post Danielle Winner said. “I think it is a lot of fun.”
The first half had finished with a flurry of scoring, before Versailles defense took over in the second half.
Danielle Winner had a 3- point play after Badin had closed within 22-20 in the final minute of the first half.
When Emma Broermann scored for Badin with three seconds left in the half to make it 25-22, it looked like it would be the halftime score.
But, Versailles senior guard Camille Watren launched a shot one step after crossing midcourt at the buzzer and it banked in to make it 28-22.
“Coach is always telling us however many seconds there are, that is how many dribbles you can take,” Watren said. “So, I knew how many dribbles I could take. As soon as I let it go, I thought that shot is in. I didn’t know it was going to bank, but I knew it was in.”
Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker laughed when she heard that comment.
“She knew it was in — that is great,” Stonebraker said when told what Watren said. “I love it. That is a confident shooter.”
Versailles began to get the ball inside more to Danielle Winner in the second half and she had some key baskets.
“I told them, take it at them,” Stonebraker said. “I told them their big girls are not invincible.”
Winner said the halftime adjustment on offense was simple.
“We just talked about moving the ball faster,” she said.
But, the big change came on defense.
Versailles switched from a man-to-man to a 1-2-2 zone.
After Shelby Nusbaum had scored to get Badin within 31-28 with 5:05 remaining in the third quarter, the Rams didn’t make another field goal until the final two minutes of the game.
That was after Badin missed just one shot in the second quarter — after trailing 16-9 after the opening quarter — to get back in the game.
“I think the biggest thing was just switching up our defense,” Watren said. “We do take a lot of pride in our defense.”
And Danielle Winner agreed.
“Coach is always telling us, our best offense is our defense,” she said. “Our defense gets our offense going.”
There was a perfect example of that early in the second half with Versailles leading by three.
Danielle Winner blocked a shot — into the hands of her sister Lindsey, a 6-1 freshman.
She fired the ball to Watren, who got a layup at the other end.
“I really don’t know how that happened,” Danielle Winner said. “They get on me sometimes for leaving my feet. But, sometimes, I just anticipate it and feel like I have to block it.”
Stonebraker was not surprised by the play.
“It was a huge play,” she said. “And that is just teammates knowing where each other are going to be.”
And, while Versailles opened a 39-29 lead after three quarters and pulled away in the fourth, it was a much more competitive game than the final score would indicate.
“And we knew that coming in,” Stonebraker said. “Badin is just like a MAC team. They are not going to go away. They just keep scrapping and fighting. I thought our girls stepped up and really handled the situation well.”
Danielle Winner led a balanced Versailles attack with 13 points and six rebounds, while Kami McEldowney scored 11 and Watren added 10.
Lindsey Winner and Elizabeth Ording both grabbed five rebounds.
Nusbaum had 11 points and five rebounds, while Broermann had 10 points and six rebounds.
Versailles was 19 of 39 from the floor for 49 percent and 11 of 22 from the line for 50 percent.
Badin was 13 of 38 from the floor for 34 percent, including four of 23 in the second half. The Rams made nine of 11 free throws for 82 percent.
Versailles won the battle of the boards 21-18 and both teams had 16 turnovers.
Now, the Lady Tigers are back in the regional finals, where their season ended a year ago.
“We wanted to get back there, but we are not done yet,” Watren. “We want to get back to the state tournament.”
And have some more “fun” games.
Hamilton Badin (36)
Grace Larkin 0-0-0, Lauren Krause 1-0-2, Olivia Keene 2-4-8, Macy Harper 1-1-3, Emma Broermann 4-2-10, Shelby Nusbaum 4-2-11, Claire McCurley 1-0-2, Emily Maher 0-0-0, Ally Stang 0-0-0. Totals: 13-9-36.
Kami McEldowney 4-3-11, Camille Watren 3-3-10, Ellen Peters 1-0-2, Elizabeth Ording 2-4-8, Danielle Winner 6-1-13, Lindsey Winner 3-0-6, Brynna Blakeley 0-0-0, Clair Schmitmeyer 0-0-0. Totals: 19-11-50.
3-point field goals — Badin: Nusbaum. Versailles: Watren.
Score By Quarters
Badin 9 22 29 36
Versailles 16 28 39 50
Records: Badin 19-8, Versailles 24-3.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.