Versailles used a smothering defense to frustrate Anna and avenge a defeat from earlier in the season with a convincing 48-26 win in the sectional final at Covington High School.

COVINGTON – When leaving Covington High School on Monday after Versailles defeated Anna 48-26 in the DIII Sectional Final, the 1982 hit song “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor came on the radio.

Which was fitting for the Versailles’ faithful who started their cars for an enjoyable trip home west on State Route 185.  After all, they witnessed their Lady Tigers’ basketball team play defense as if they had the “Eye of the Tiger”.

Versailles, who lost to Anna by the score of 35-34 earlier in the season, was relentless on defense – smothering Anna over every inch of the floor. It resulted into 19 Rocket turnovers, 11 field goals and a meager 26 points for Anna throughout the entire contest.

“Anna has a great team,” said Versailles’ coach Jacki Stonebreaker. “We lost to them in December and the girls haven’t forgotten about that. It was on their minds the entire season. The girls knew the game plan and did a great job of doing everything we told them to do.”

Pressure defense was the key for Versailles as Caitlin McEldowny harasses Anna’s Michaela Ambos as she attempts to bring the ball up the floor.

The defensive tone of the game was established at the outset as neither team could find open looks at the basket, but a pair of buckets by Lauren Barhorst and another by Kiplyn Rowland gave Anna a 6-2 lead after Versailles opened the game with a short jumper by Lindsay Winner.

But Anna would go nearly five minutes without scoring, while Versailles connected on back-to-back three-pointers by Caitlin McEldowny and Kelsey Custenborder. The Rockets broke their offensive woes with a jumper by Elia Doseck to close the gap to 10-8 after one.

Doseck tied the score with a layup to start the second and Barhorst responded to an Elizabeth Ording basket with a jumper, but once again the Rockets went on a long scoring slump.

Versailles went on a 9-0 run on a layup by Lindsay Winner, a jumper by Liz Watren, a trey by McEldowny and another bucket by Winner.

Anna’s Michaela Ambos ended the run with a free throw and a layup, but Elizabeth Ording hit a jumper from the baseline to give Versailles the momentum heading into the break, 23-15.

Relentless effort is what both Versailles and Anna put forth in battling for loose balls on Monday in the sectional final.

“We were up by eight at halftime and we told the girls they had another half to play,” Stonebreaker said. “We just kept talking about the last game, the last game. We didn’t want that same feeling.”

Doseck found a runner go down for Anna and then Ambros responded to a Hannah Barga traditional three-point play with a layup to make the score 26-19 in favor of the Tigers in the first minute of the second half.

But that would be the last field goal the Lady Rockets would hit until the early moments of the fourth quarter as Versailles went on a 15-2 run to virtually put the game away.

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“That was the key, defense,” emphasized Stonebraker. “Them not getting any open shots at the basket.”

And it was the long range shooting of Caitlin McEldowny that did the most damage offensively as the junior point guard drilled three treys in the run.

“She’s very confident in her three-point shot,” Stonebreaker said of McEldowny. “She was on tonight – she felt it and it felt good. She also did a very good job of taking care of the basketball. Overall, we had nine turnovers.”

Kelsey Custenborder pulls down one of the 24 rebounds for Versailles.

Leading 41-21 after Doseck’s layup ended the run early in the fourth, Versailles used the clock to its advantage by spreading the floor and making Anna chase.

This led to a very low scoring final frame, but Versailles could care less as it walked off the floor with a very rewarding 22-point win.

The points by Versailles were spread out among nine players with Caitlyn McEldowny leading the way with a game-high 14 points – 12 of those coming on four treys.

Anna was led in scoring by Elia Doseck, who had 10 points as only four other Rockets managed to find the scoring column.

Versailles, who had a significant size advantage, dominated on the boards, 24-13.

“Our bigs did great,” Stonebraker praised. “They didn’t care who scored and they shared the basketball so well. Lindsay (Winner) was great. She hit some real tough shots.

The Lady Tigers only committed nine turnovers to 19 for Anna. The Tigers were 4-of-5 from the free throw line and Anna was 4-of-6.

The win boosts Versailles’ record to 20-5 on the season, while Anna ends its season at 18-5.

Versailles advances to play Williamsburg on Saturday at Springfield High School in the district championship game. Time for that game has not been set.

And you can be sure Versailles will have the “Eye of the Tiger”.

Versailles’ Brooke Stonebraker swats away the shot attempt of Anna’s Lauren Barhorst in the sectional final at Covington.

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