By Mark Ruschau
VANDALIA -- The Versailles Tigers bowed out of the Division III girls basketball tournament as they fell to the state's second-ranked Jonathan Alder Pioneers, 45-41, in the regional finals on Saturday afternoon at the Vandalia-Butler Student Activities Center.
Alder will take a 24-2 record to the state semifinals on Thursday in Columbus against the Margaretta Polar Bears. Versailles bows out of the tournament with a 20-6 mark.
The Pioneers used a stifling defense, a great all-round around performance by Central District player of the year Lauren Prochaska and big plays down the stretch to eliminate the Tigers.
Alder used a combination of fullcourt pressure defense and constant halfcourt defensive pressure to take Versailles out of any kind of consistent offense. On the day, Versailles connected on just 18-of-44 field goals, including just 2-of-15 from three-point range, and had just five free throws on the day. The Tigers also turned the ball over 18 times.
Although Versailles top player Justine Raterman was able to score 15 points, no other Tiger was able to score more than eight points. "We knew coming in that their weakness was handling pressure and that we had to stop Raterman from getting the ball and I thought our guards did a great job of putting pressure on the ball," said Alder coach Terra McDaniels. "We did a great job of picking things up defensively, especially in the second half and that made a big difference."
"Their 1-2-1 and their 1-2-2 presses really got to us, we had trouble getting the ball past halfcourt," said Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker. "Sure, we practiced and prepared for their pressure this week but their kind of speed and quickness is hard to simulate in a practice setting.
"Give all the credit to them on their defensive effort, it was outstanding," continued Stonebraker. "But like we said before, though, we had our chances down the stretch."
Prochaska was a one person wrecking crew as she scored a game-high 27 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and added 13-of-14 from the free-throw line. The junior grabbed 10 rebounds, had four steals and had five assists.
Leading 24-22 starting the second half, Versailles added a pair of baskets from Melissa Heft to take a 28-22 lead with 3:35 left in the third.
The Pioneers then scored the next eight points of the game to take their first lead of the game 30-28 with 2:22 left in the period. Kelly Moore scored her only points of the game, a three-point field goal, to make the score 28-25. After a Heft miss, Prochaska scored inside to make the score 28-27. Prochaska then gave her team the lead as she stole the ball at midcourt and drove in for a lay-in, was fouled in the process and hit the free throw to make the score 30-28 as they took a 35-31 lead into the final period.
Alder built its advantage to 37-31 on a basket by Jessica Adams on its second trip of the period.
Versailles came back and scored the next six points of the game, baskets by Bohman, Megan Shardo and Raterman to tie the game with 3:30 left.
Two Prochaska free throws gave the Pioneers the lead again, 39-37 with 3:19 left. After working the clock for over two minutes, Versailles tied the game one last time at 39 on a basket by Raterman with 1:21 left.
Alder took the lead for good, 42-39 with 1:07 left when Adams made a beautiful feed to Prochaska under for a basket, she was fouled and she canned the free throw for a three-point play.
Alder sealed the deal by hitting three free throws in the final 50 seconds.
"We had our shots down the stretch," said Stonebraker. "We took great shots, grabbed some offensive rebounds, we had our chances but in the end we just did not have enough."