Friday, March 16th, 2007
By Gary R. Rasberry
Versailles falls short in state semis
COLUMBUS - Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker had a smile on her face during pregame warmups and halftime. She was still smiling after the Tigers' Division III state semifinal against Cleveland Central Catholic.
The Tigers gave the third-ranked Ironmen, featuring Ms. Basketball Jantel Lavender, all they could handle, but in the end, the Ironmen were able to get a late cushion to post a 51-39 win at the Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University on Thursday.
The win pushes CCC to 24-1 on the season along with a berth to Saturday's state final against Delphos St. John's. The Tigers, making their third final-four trip - and first since 1998 - end the season at 23-4.
"I thought we did a nice job in the first half and third quarter," said Stonebraker. "We just played hard, solid basketball. We took the ball to the hole, hit some outside jumpers. For the most part, I thought we played our tempo, our style. Then it got in the fourth quarter and got away from us."
The first quarter was a near dead heat as both teams' defense contained the other's weapon. Lavender was held to just two points on 1-of-2 shooting while Justine Raterman, an all-Ohio second teamer, was 0-for-2 without any points.
"Of course, there's always going to be nervousness," said Lavender. "This is our first appearance at the state. We were nervous at the beginning, but it tailed off."
Emily Bohman was the early offensive force for the Tigers, scoring six of the Versailles eight points in the opening quarter. Versailles matched the Ironmen point for point until Candyce Flynn's jumper with three seconds left gave CCC a 10-8 lead after the first eight minutes of play.
After Lavender scored to make it 12-8 at the start of the second, the Tigers caught fire. Kylee Schlater hit a three-pointer with 7:20 to go to cut the Versailles deficit to one point at 11-12.
Then Stacy Reed's trey at the 5:46 mark gave the Tigers their first lead of the game at 14-12. The Ironmen got the lead back, but could only get as far away as seven points in the quarter before a strong finish to the stanza by Versailles.
With two minutes left before halftime, the Tigers came back to score the last six points of the second quarter and ended up trailing by only one at 21-20.
"I was very happy with our first half play," said Stonebraker. "We weren't hitting many outside shots at that point. I thought if we could have hit a couple of more jumpers from the baseline or elbow - the shots we made all season - we could stay with them, and we did."
"I don't think there were any surprises. We knew what they were going to do," said CCC coach Brian Arth. "We worked on their offense. They just did a great job. They were patient. We get after it in the passing lanes and sometimes overplay. A couple of times it hurt us, but we settled down."
In the third quarter, the tight game continued. Every time the Ironmen tried to extend their lead, the Tigers were able to counter.
Raterman, held to two points in the first half, nailed a three-pointer with 41/2 minutes to go in the third quarter trimming the deficit to one point again at 26-25. Later with her team trailing 32-27 with under a minute left, Raterman swished another trey with 26 seconds left from the corner to cut it to 32-30 going into the fourth quarter.
With Lavender still bottled up by the Orange and Black defense, scoring relief came off the Ironmen bench in the form of Angela Bryant. The senior had nine of her 13 points in the second half.
In the fourth quarter, the pressure finally caught up to the Tigers as the Ironmen began to get offense in transition. CCC outscored the Tigers 19-9 in the final stanza and sealed it with some solid free throw shooting, going 5-of-7 in the final 57 seconds of play. The Ironmen were 13-of-17 from the line in the contest, compared to 5-of-8 for the Tigers.
"I thought we did great," said Tiger guard Emily Bohman. "We knew we had to come in and contain their big girls. We did a good job on offense. We drove and we dished. We just didn't have it today."
"They're a very good team," said Arth of Versailles. "They move the ball around 10-15 times with the pass before they shoot. We just told our girls to stay patient."
Lavender was held to 14 points - seven under her average - but pulled down 14 rebounds - five offensive. Flynn scored 10 points and dished out six assists for the Ironmen.
Raterman finished with 13 points and seven boards while Bohman added eight points with Megan Shardo scoring six.
Despite the loss, the Tigers were happy. Knowing that this loss added with the loss last year in the regional finals to eventual state champ Jonathan Alder, will keep the underclassmen's desire for a return trip to Columbus intact.
"It makes it so much worth it," said Raterman. "We don't take it for granted. It's really an accomplishment. We can't look past it. It'll make us more determined to come out next year, work harder and get that next step."
"It's an awesome experience," said Bohman. "It'll give us more motivation for next year."
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