The Versailles Lady Tigers wiped out three years of bad memories and bounced back from their only loss at the same time, using their height and experience to dominate Fort Loramie.
Versailles—December 23rd is date the Versailles Lady Tigers had been waiting on for a long time. And it had nothing to do with Christmas.
The Tigers annual rivalry with Fort Loramie has produced many memories through the years as the programs are two of the finest in the state. Lately though, all the Tigers memories of the series had been unpleasant.
Three years ago, Loramie prevailed in overtime 61-55, and had won the last two years by identical 43-39 scores. The game took on even more importance for the Tigers last week when they dropped a 52-51 decision at unbeaten Lima Bath for their first loss of the season.
After an early deadlock, the Tigers took control with 6 unanswered points, and never looked back, sending the Redskins back to Fort Loramie with a 48-31 shiner.
“That’s a great win for us,” said a smiling Versailles head coach Jacki Stonebraker. “Anytime we can play Fort Loramie tough like we did today is a great win for our program. They have had our number the past few years. It’s always a great rivalry with great relationships between the two schools as well.”
“That’s a great team we played today,” said Loramie coach Carla Siegel after her club fell to 5-4 on the season. “They have great guards, great shooters, and a lot of tall girls. We knew it was going to be a tough battle. I liked our energy early, but thought we were really flat in the second and third quarters. They took advantage of that.”
Kami McEldowney hit a pair of threes to key a 17-6 second quarter surge to give the Tigers a 27-10 lead at the break. Though the very young Redskins never gave up, thy never made a serious second half challenge to the now 9-1 Tigers.
“This is a great win for our team,” a smiling Kami McEldowney said. “To come out and play like that against Loramie, especially senior year, I’m just happy for our team and our coach.”
Three Tigers finished in double figures, led by 6-2 Danielle Warner’s 12 points. 5-11 junior Elizabeth Ording added 11, and McEldowney, the 5-7 fourth year starter, finished with 10.
“One of our main gameplans today was to get the ball inside,” Stonebraker acknowledged. “We knew they weren’t as tall and strong as we were inside, and you have to exploit their weakness. We wanted to go strong to our post players and then kick it out to our guards if they started to shut that down..
“I really think our defense did a nice job in the first half shutting them down. That really set the tone for the game.”
Loramie failed to put anyone in double figures, but did get a nice effort from 5-10 freshman Jaydn Puthoff, who finished with nine.
On the day, Versailles shot 38% from the floor, 27% from the arc, and was 7 of 8 at the line. Loramie finished at 36% from the field, 0-5 behind the arc, and was just 3-7 from the charity stripe.
The Redskins have played a brutal schedule thus far, losing to unbeaten Tippecanoe and Minster, and once-beatens New Bremen and Versailles.
“We are going to be okay,” Siegel said. We have to learn from games like this. We try to keep things in perspective. We aren’t happy with the way we played today at all, because I expect more out of my girls than what we got today. At the same time, we have 14 and 15 year olds playing against 17 and 18 year olds and we are struggling with the physicality of the game against the better teams.
“We are not only dealing with inexperience at the high school level, but also the speed of the game. We have two freshmen seeing a lot of time, and this game is fast compared to an 8th grade game. We need to show more growth and progress, and we just aren’t there yet.”
Versailles controlled the boards 28-22, and finished with 13 turnovers, compared to 17 for the Redskins.
Versailles had an entire week off after the loss to Bath, and Stonebraker didn’t mince any words about that defeat.
“It’s a good thing we lost that game,” she said matter of factly. “I felt all throughout that game that we were not playimg our game. I just feel like if you win a game like that, where you don’t play well, then you think you can always win like that. If you play bad, you should lose. Losing that game let us re-focus and put everything back into perspective.”
McEldowney said it had been a long week since that loss.
“You always want to get right back on the floor after a loss, and we had to wait an entire week. Our practices are always tough anyway, so it was good to come out today and get the victory.
The senior said she did not mind the role of distributor.
“Not at all,” she said with a smile. “Definitely need to get the ball to the post. We knew we could dominate inside today and my teammates did a great job of hitting shots inside.”
The Tigers are always a target, and McEldowney welcomes that challenge.
“The expectations are good because you have to raise your level of play. We know we are going to get everyone’s best shot and that just makes us work harder to get better.
“We were on cloud nine for a while there (after the Tigers state volleyball title last month). We came in and thought, man, the start of another season. It took a little bit, but now we are ready and we want to take this team to that level. We are working hard, and so far, its been fun.”