By Rob Kiser
COVINGTON —- A girls basketball coach’s worst nightmare in Southwest Ohio come tournament time?
Finding Versailles sitting on the oppenents bench in a big game.
The Lady Tigers play as tough a schedule as anyone during the regular season, then play their best basketball in the postseason.
That formula has led to three Final Four appearances in the last four years.
And Anna saw that first hand Monday night in a Covington D-III sectional final.
The third seeded Rockets had a 35-34 win over the fourth seeded Tigers at Versailles during the regular season.
But, they faced a very different Versailles team Monday in front of a capacity crowd.
Versailles took a 23-15 halftime lead, then used torrid 3-point shooting a smothering defense to open a 39-21 third quarter lead and coast to a 48-26 victory.
Versailles, 20-5, will play Williamsburg in a D-III district final at Springfield Saturday. Anna closes the season at 18-5.
“These girls are champions,” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “They work so hard. They worked hard just to keep their heads above water during the regular season.”
And the Tigers couldn’t wait to get on the floor Monday night.
“We wanted that revenge game,” McEldowney said. “After that buzzer-beater during the season.”
Anna had battled back from a 10-4 early deficit to tie the game at 12 on a Lauren Barhorst basket, before Versailles went on a 9-0 run, a sign of things to come.
Lindsey Winner hit a baseline jumper, Liz Watren drilled a shot from just inside the 3-point line, McEldowney drilled the second of her four 3-pointers and Winner added another basket inside.
“We knew they were going to be sagging in on us,” Stonebraker said. “Kelsey (Custenborder) and Caitlin (McEldowney) hit threes (in the first half) and Liz (Watren) hit a shot just inside the (3-point) line.”
After Anna closed within 23-15 at the break, McEldowney led a third-quarter barrage that shot Anna right out of the game.
McEldowney hits her first three shots of the half —- two 3-pointers and a two and finished five of eight from the floor with four threes.
“Oh my gosh,” McEldowney said. “We had been working really hard on the threes this week in practice. And when the other girls hit them, it just pumps everybody up. The other girls did a great job setting screens. All I had to do was hit the shots.”
Hannah Barga also hit a three in the quarter.
“Wow,” Stonebraker said. “That’s all you can say (about Caitlin McEldowney’s 3-point shooting). Hannah (Barga) hit one.”
At the same time, the Versailles defense limited Anna to two field goals in the third quarter and Winner and Liz Ording were force inside for the Tigers.
“They (Lindsey Winner, Liz Ording) did a great job reading the bounces off the rim and getting offensive rebounds, which is not easy to do,” Stonebraker said. “And our defense smothered them.”
The result was a 39-21 lead and just a matter of playing the final eight minutes to earn a trip to district.
“Our practices (were the difference),” McEldowney said. “We have had the boys alumni coming in at practices. Our practices are so hard, it makes the game easy. A game like this takes our confidence from 0 (on a scale of 1-10) to 20.”
McEldowney led the Lady Tigers with 14 points, while Ording had eight points and six rebounds, Winner scored eight points and Barga added six.
Ella Doseck led Anna with 10 points and Barhorst added six points and seven rebounds.
Versailles 18 of 39 from the floor for 46 percent and six of 11 from the line 55 percent.
Anna was 12 of 27 from the floor for 44 percent and four of nine from the line for 44 percent.
Versailles won the battle of the boards 20-13 and had just 10 turnovers —- three in the second half —- to Anna’s 17.
“It was great to play a game like this —- to play a team that is similar to us,” Stonebraker said. “And Anna is always going to be similar to us. They worked, they have good athletes —- it is hard to put an Anna team down.”
But on this night, any team would have met the same fate against the Tigers.
Michelle Ambos 2-1-5, Breah Kuck 1-0-2, Ella Doseck 4-2-10, Kiplyn Rowland 2-0-4, Lauren Barhorst 3-0-6, Mary Landis 0-0-0, Amber Zimpfer 0-0-0, Hope Bixler 0-0-0, Kayli Brewer 0-0-0, Lenna Rowland 0-1-1. Totals: 12-4-26.
Caitlin McEldowney 5-0-14, Hannah Barga 2-1-6, Liz Ording 3-2-8, Lindsey Winner 4-0-8, Kelsey Custenborder 1-0-3, Liz Watren 1-0-2, Savannah Toner 1-0-2, Brooke Stonebraker 0-0-0, Caitlyn Luthman 0-0-0, Kate Griesdorn 0-1-1, Rachel Lyons 1-2-4. Totals: 18-6-48.
3-point field goals —- Versailles:McEldowney (4), Barga, Custenborder.
Score By Quarters
Anna 8 15 21 26
Versailles 10 23 39 48
Records: Versailles 20-5, Anna 18-5.