Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.

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The Versailles girls advanced to the regional round of the state tournament Saturday with a commanding win over yet another overwhelmed post-season opponent.  How do they do it?  Read on.

Springfield – Jacki Stonebraker’s Versailles girls did again Saturday what’s come to be the routine.

They won another Division III district basketball tournament title, eviscerating an overwhelmed Waynesville team, 56-32.  After the first eight minutes, the Lady Tigers (19-6), literally, took the heart and competitive soul out of the 17-8 Spartans from Warren County.

Routine?  Coaches often bristle at the suggestion that any championship, or title, is routine…out of respect for the competitive tradition, as if it’s disrespectful to an opponent.

But the fact is that Stonebraker and the Tigers in the past decade have made making the regional round of the tournament routine, and in the process have won two state titles.  The question was circulated outside her locker room Saturday as to just how many consecutive districts this makes for Versailles, and I confess…I don’t know.  No one else did, either, including Stonebraker.

“I really don’t,”  she admitted.  “I don’t pay that much attention to things like that.  My dad even asks me and I tell him I don’t know.  You’ll have to check with a stats person, I guess.”

For the record, it’s somewhere in the vicinity of five, maybe.  But the point to be made is something much greater than how many.  Jacki Stonebraker and the Tigers have become about as close to a sure thing as there is area sports, let alone women’s basketball.  Only Carla Siegel and Ft. Loramie, in Division IV, and possibly Anna, can lay claim to this kind of consistency in that same ten-year period.  And ironically, Loramie and Anna have won a pair of titles, themselves.

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As to the details of her latest triumph, it’s not a matter of stats and strategy, but more, the overwhelming physical advantage that the Tigers brought to bear on Waynesville.

It was close, sort of, for the first eight minutes;  the Spartans’ Rachel Murray keeping her team in the game with a series of drives to the hoop.  It was 13-8 after one.

May I lend you a hand?  Versailles' Clair Schmitmeyer fights through a hassle of hands to get to the rim in Saturdays district win.

May I lend you a hand? Versailles’ Clair Schmitmeyer fights through a hassle of hands to get to the rim in Saturday’s district win.

But then Versailles came out in a zone, to negate penetration of the lane, and Waynesville reacted as if it was the border wall that Donald Trump promises to build.  They would score but 4 points in the entire second quarter while Versailles turned loose balls and missed shots into easy buckets at the other end.  The Tigers went on a 17-4 run;  Camille Watren scored 6 and Danielle Winner had 7 – collectively 13 in the quarter – and the Spartans’ bus driver headed for the parking lot…to fire up the bus!

Monnin would lead all scorers for the game with 15, while Watren and Winner complemented with 11 apiece.  Kami McEldowney added 9.

The second half was little different, more ragged, perhaps, but a “gut punch”, in Stonebraker’s words, as her starters continue to wear down Waynesville.  The score went from 30-12 to 41-12 as subs and seconds got playing time, the matter of who would win long decided.  Versailles’ subs turned the ball four times in a span of the final five minutes, Waynesville scored off those mistakes, or the final deficit would have been more than 24 points.

“We came out slow,”  said Stonebraker.  “And that happens because we have a target on our back and teams come out ready to go after us.  But I think our pressure and continuous running up and down the court wears teams down.  You could see it happen in the second quarter.”

In spades.  Waynesville was nowhere near the physical matchup required to play a defending state champion who routinely tunes its game against the likes of the best competition from other title challengers.  The Spartans were gassed by the end of Versailles’ 17-4 second quarter run.

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Stonebraker’s Tigers, a surprise to be back in this position after losing its size and experience from last year’s title team, go on undaunted and will meet the winner of Madeira and West Liberty on Tuesday.

A surprise, and yet, it could not helped but have looked to the uninitiated that Saturday’s win came…maybe too easy?

“Truthfully, I didn’t expect to win like this,”  said Stonebraker afterwards, responding to the question.  Was it too easy?  Would a more challenging win have been a better preparatory tool for teams to come?

“I thought the key to this game was how Danielle (Winner) and Lauren (Monnin) would attack the rim.  And they did just what we needed them to do…attack the rim and create fouls.”

Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker assists her son Maddox in cutting down the net.

Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker assists her son Maddox in cutting down the net.

And create fatigue, noticeable by outside shots left short in the second quarter.  Versailles physical style had taken the legs out from under the Spartans.

But further addressing the question as to the value of a 24-point win, Stonebraker shared what so many from Darke, Auglaize, and Mercer County – and the state at large – are coming to understand with each passing year.

“I think we go into games with the right mindset,” answered Stonebraker, matter-of-factly.  “I think we have the kind of experience we need from the quality opponents that we play during the season.  There’s a reason why we play those teams.  There’s a reason why we play Ft. Loramie.  I like to win the MAC, but I don’t get upset with losing to Minster because of the value of that competition.  It prepares you for situations like this.  It’s the same reason why Carla Siegel plays the teams she plays.  You value that experience and you learn to trust it.”

Saturday’s wasn’t as memorable a win as some, a title that’s sure to blend with those of the past.  They almost become inditinguishable.  But that’s the risk of being routine.

For being a sure thing!

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