A hot hand from an unexpected source for Marion Pleasant, and shots that simply wouldn’t fall cost the Versailles Lady Tigers a chance to defend the D-III title next week in Columbus.
Springfield – The start to Saturday’s D-III Regional Championship game could not have been more perfect for the Versailles Lady Tigers.
Senior Lauren Monnin scored 8 points early and the Tigers raced to a 14-5 advantage, forcing a Marion Pleasant time-out less than 6 minutes into the game.
That quick start was about the only thing to go the Tigers way the entire day.
The Spartans rallied with a 10-0 run to take the lead, then dominated the second half to eliminate the defending champion Tigers 48-35.
“We just couldn’t make a shot,” said an obviously disappointed Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker. “We couldn’t get inside their defense like we usually do. They hit a lot of shots and we didn’t, but in the end I’m still proud of these girls.”
The Tigers went 1 for 8 from the floor in the second quarter, and didn’t score for 5 ½ minutes. Versailles still managed a 19-18 lead at the break, but the momentum from the early start was long gone.
“We just tried to get on the same page at halftime,” the coach continued. “One girl was running one thing and another was doing something else. Our whole court was off balance. Every move we tried to make they had a counter for. Everything was clicking for them and it wasn’t for us.”
Hannah Peltier, a 5-8 senior for the Spartans, scored 7 third quarter points, and fellow senior Kamryn Kimmel added five as the Spartans took a 32-27 lead after three. Peltier, who averaged just over 5 points a game for the Spartans, would add two triples in the fourth quarter to finish with a game high 16 points including 4 3-pointers. Kimmel, averaging nine points a game, was right behind, ending up with 15 as the Spartans improved to 26-2 and advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 1998..
“Peltier was really hard for us to guard,” said Stonebraker, shaking her head. “We knew she had some firepower but we didn’t know how much. She got some open looks and had the game of her life tonight.”
Versailles shooting woes went from bad to worse in the fourth quarter. Forced to play catch-up, the Tigers took the first shot they saw, and went 2 for 12 in the quarter. In all, the Tigers were out-scored 30-16 in the second half as their season ended at 21-7.
“They shot the ball well,” explained Stonebraker. “But the story of the game was that we could not get anything to fall. We were standing around waiting for things to happen, and they never do when you do that.”
For the Tigers, Monnin finished her outstanding career with 14 points, but no other Tiger had more than 7.
The old adage is if you can’t score you can’t win, and Versailles couldn’t. The Tigers were a miserable 13 of 41 for 31%, and 7 of 31 after the first quarter for 23%. The Spartans were just the opposite, starting cold and finishing red-hot. Pleasant made 10 of 15 shots in the second half, and finished at 53% for the game.
The three-point arc was also devastating for the Tigers. Versailles managed just 1 of 6, while Pleasant hit 6 of 10 from long range for 60%. The Spartans out-rebounded the Tigers 21-16, and had 19 turnovers to the Tigers 15.
“We started 4-4 and 0-3 in the MAC,” remembered Stonebraker. “Being at the bottom of the MAC was disheartening. It was a reality check. But the kids kept fighting, and kept improving as a team. We had some bad luck this week with several players playing that were really sick. We have been playing our best basketball of the season the last couple weeks, but we just couldn’t put it all together today.
“There were a lot of people who didn’t expect us to get this far,” Stonebraker continued. “But these girls expected it. They really wanted it and that’s what makes us who we are. They gave everything they had every day from player number 1 to number 14. We have a good group coming back next year, but it’s always tough to see the seniors go. They have been a part of us for four years, and they are special kids. I’ll take the 14 kids on this tournament team over any other. The won together, they lost together. They were truly a team.”