By John Bombatch Sports Editor email@example.com
March 11, 2014
SPRINGFIELD — A taller and faster Versailles Tigers team put an end to an amazing Greeneview Rams girls basketball season, Saturday at Springfield High School.
Versailles rolled out to a 20-point first-half lead and stayed out front the rest of the way, to win the Division III regional basketball title, 57-32.
“They are long, and they can move. They knew that, if we wanted to stay in the game, we had to compete in the paint. And that just didn’t happen,” said Greeneview coach Gregg Haines of the Tigers. “They’re just a well-oiled machine that’s ready to make a run at a state title.”
Versailles (24-3) rarely missed a shot, or a rebound, in the first half. Unofficially, the Tigers hit 14 of 24 shots from the floor (58 percent), and snagged 23 rebounds.
Conversely, Greeneview didn’t hit many shots (5-of-24, roughly 20 percent) and had six total rebounds in the half.
“For us, we rebounded extremely well,” said 5-foot-10 senior post player Emily Harman, who led Versailles with a 12-point day. “We knew Greeneview was going to shoot the 3-point ball, and so we were ready to grab a lot of long rebounds, so we had to hold our box-outs longer, and I think we did that really well.”
Versailles led 33-13 at the break. Greeneview (24-4) couldn’t get closer than 18 points of the Tigers in the second half.
Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said she emphasized rebounding, and getting the ball inside to the post players in practice leading up to Saturday’s contest. She said Rams standout Ashton Lovely is unlike any other player the Tigers have seen.
“We play against a lot of good players on our schedule, but she’s definitely one player that you can’t leave alone. But you also have to form like a gang defense against her. We had to gang up on her, and then release quickly, because she’s going to find the open girl if she doesn’t have a shot. We had to gang up on her and then we had to release,” Stonebraker said.
With 2:43 left in the game, Haines pulled his starters — Alex Rice, Natasha Siebenaler, Sophie Sonneman, Katelyn Combs and Lovely. There didn’t seem to be a dry eye on the Greeneview sideline.
Lovely led all scorers with 18 points. She and fellow seniors Rice, Siebenaler, Laura Muetzel, Allison Weller and Kim Swearingen had played their final Rams varsity basketball game.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the large throng of Greeneview fans and a typically rowdy Rams student section voiced their appreciation of the team’s effort with proud chants of ‘We are Greeneview!’
“It’s been a crazy ride,” Rice said before breaking into tears. “These girls are amazing, and we just didn’t want it to end. It was a great season. It sucks that it has to end like this, but it’s great that we were able to come this far.”
Eyes red from crying, Siebenaler said the Rams did everything they could, but it just wasn’t enough.
“Sophie (Sonneman) did a great job inside, but you can only do so much against all of them. We just didn’t get our helpside defense there in time, and it just killed us on the rebounding as well,” Siebenaler said. “This season was so much fun. This is the best group of girls that I could ever wish for. I wouldn’t wish to be on any other team, because it’s just the best team. It just sucks that it ended this way, but we had a great run, and I’m proud of what we accomplished this year.”
Ohio Heritage Conference, sectional and district champs, the Rams also set the school mark for most wins in a season with 24 this season. Sonneman was named to the all-district honorable mention team, and Lovely was named the southwest district’s Player of the Year, and is a likely choice for all-Ohio honors which will be named later this month.
Almost an hour after the game, Lovely, wearing a University of Cincinnati Bearcats T-shirt and warmups, was still receiving congratulations and thanks from Greeneview fans and family.
“We just couldn’t hit shots. I think we handled their pressure pretty well, but we just couldn’t out-rebound them. They were too big,” Lovely said. “And they were deeper on their bench, too, I think.
“I’ll always look back at this season and this team fondly. This is the greatest group of people. I’m just so thankful to have these opportunities that I’ve had,” she said.
This is Versailles’ first trip to the state final four since 2009. They also went in 2007 and 2008, winning the state crown in ‘08. They’ll face Proctorville Fairland (23-3) in the state semifinals, Friday at Ohio State University’s Jerome Schottenstein Center, in Columbus.