Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites and outdoor publications, and for the past ten years has served as regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Widely knowledgeable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the country.  Involved with a number of writing projects, he and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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The Versailles girls used their age-old method to jump out to a quick start and win Thursday against St. John, and there’s nothing they’re doing that won’t get even better with time.

Versailles – Jacki Stonebraker’s girls won their fifth straight game Thursday night over a game and competitive group from Delphos St. John. Final score…51-28.

And here’s how they did it.

Delphos jumped out to an early first quarter lead by making some shots. And more, they clung onto that lead for the first five minutes of the game with some hard, physical pressure on the Versailles size advantage inside.

But there’s a formula at Versailles by which Stonebraker has won two state titles – by which she routinely pushes for 20 wins a season and garners high tournament seeds. The Tigers simply wear you down. That’s right, they wear you down with pressure on the basketball, and they wrote the book on physical play in the paint.

And despite Delphos’ quick start and determined effort to remain competitive Thursday, by halftime Jacki’s recipe was cooking. They led 28-19 and while they never pulled off and left Delphos in the second half…they left no chance for Delphos to close the gap, either.

That defensive pressure amounted to 24 Delphos turnovers…six per quarter.

That usual size advantage for Versailles created a whopping disparity on the defensive boards. The Tigers out-rebounded the Jays by 30-12.

In the meantime center Danielle Winner and guard Kami McEldowney, (both juniors) combined for 29 points…and McEldowney spread it around well enough from her point guard position to engage five other teammates in the scoring. Camille Watren (2), Emily Langenkamp (2), Kami Ording (8), Clair Schmitmeyer (4), and Elizabeth Ording (6). Their 22 points were a nice complement.

If you’re familiar with Versailles basketball…MAC basketball…there was a familiarity about Thursday that bodes for some difficult nights for future opponents. And that is…while Versailles is relatively young in their core players, they all play hard, they feast on turning over unwary opponents with that pressure defense, and…Jacki Stonebraker teams usually get better with time.

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“I liked the way we played,” said Stonebraker. “But I also think we’re up and down a lot because of our inexperience. We haven’t played a lot of games with this team. We play really good in spurts when we have the energy, and then when teams score on us we fall back on our heels and don’t play as well as we should. We go two or three minutes and don’t score. So it’s important that we always put that pressure on, that we create that next steal and that next easy basket.

“It’s true that we haven’t played much, but I want to be where we were last year at this time. You end one season on a high and it’s hard to come back with a new year and start all over again. I think the girls feel that; I think they want to be like we were at the end of last year…but this is a whole new group. It’s about patience – it’s all about patience – and it’s hard to be patient in this world today.”

Look familiar?  Versaiiles' Kami McEldowney (far left) battles St. John's Hayleigh Bacome for a loose ball turnover in Thursday's win.

Look familiar? Versailles’ Kami McEldowney (far left) battles St. John’s Hayleigh Bacome for a loose ball turnover in Thursday’s win.

Well, Jacki…when you shoot 43% from three-point range – when you shoot 88% from the foul line – and you shoot 45% overall from the floor – you can afford some impatience until things settle in like last year. And if anything, there’s enough depth, youthful experience, and talent at hand to get to where they were when they bowed out in the regional tournament last March.

“It was a good way to start the MAC season,” said McEldowney, all 5’5” of her outside the Tigers locker room. “I thought we showed our mental game tonight. I think we balanced the points well. We have good combinations on the court and I think we’ve worked hard in the off-season to get back to where we finished last year.”

McEldowney will benefit greatly this year from a more experienced Danielle Winner in the post.

“Danielle is just a beast inside for us,” smiles the diminutive point guard. “I love playing with her because we’ve been together for so long and we have great communication.  She can score, but she’s a great passer, too. She looks for us on the court.”

And at 6’2”, Winner’s size and attributes developing ahead of schedule are going to give opposing defenses fits for the next two months.  They’ve always had good “bigs” at Versailles, and Winner’s right on track to join with the best of them.

“She sees the court so well,” adds Stonebraker. “She’s unique for her size because a lot of girls get the ball at the top and don’t square up because that’s not their shot. But when Danielle gets the ball up top she does square up and then looks for someone else. She’s got some growth to do inside, but as that comes she’s going to be a really good player.”

Which pretty much sums up why Jacki’s so impatient for that process to come about. This is a talented group that showed plenty of patience on offense in Thursday’s win, working the ball for as much as 45 seconds with a couple of possessions until they got what they wanted. And if they didn’t score….pressure on the other end. Create as much havoc as you can and create the turnover. Wear the other team down.

MAC_logo2insetIt’s how they beat a pretty good St. John, holding leading scorers Madilynn Schulte and Jessica Geise to just eight points apiece – holding the Blue Jays to just 28 for the game. It’s worked for years.

And trust it…it’s going to get better.  Just be patient.

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