By Josh Brown
CASSTOWN — Before Saturday’s showdown between two of the top three teams in the state in Division III, Miami East girls basketball coach Preston Elifritz said he used a figure skating metaphor in his speech to his team.
“I told them it’s like with figure skating: everyone wants to see this giant performance, but all they really care about is if you stick the landing,” he said. “Today in the end, we were just able to stick the landing.”
While the metaphor did fit, the actual game looked nothing like figure skating.
The sixth-ranked Vikings and ninth-ranked Versailles Tigers — two of the areas biggest, strongest and most physical basketball programs — fought back and forth in a bruising battle of wills Saturday that went into overtime, but Miami East’s dominance on the glass and clutch free throw shooting late — particularly by Emily Kindell — helped the Vikings capture a 49-47 victory in what could only be described as a regional championship-esque atmosphere in Casstown.
“It’s a great game to be part of, two great programs going head to head,” Versailles coach Jackie Stonebraker said. “It’s just the way the game goes. A game like this doesn’t come down to one play, or one free throw, or even one turnover. It comes down to how you played the whole game.”
“With the type of athleticism our kids have, the atmosphere, this is everything you could ask for in a girls basketball game,” Elifritz said. “Both teams deserved to win. You can’t ask for anything more out of a girls basketball game — except maybe for another overtime.”
Miami East (17-1) used its post presence and rebounding prowess, outrebounding the Tigers 15-3 to build a 15-9 lead after the first quarter. But Versailles (16-3) answered in the second with its full-court pressure, forcing seven Viking turnovers while committing none to fuel an 11-0 run that allowed the Tigers to take a 24-20 lead at the half.
In that first half, Versailles was 10 for 17 from the free throw line, while the Vikings had far fewer attempts, going 5 for 5 — and were fortunate to only be trailing by four as a result.
“I didn’t think we took advantage of the calls we were getting in the first half enough,” Stonebraker said. “We had a few of their girls in foul trouble with two or three. We needed to take the ball at them more.”
“They did a better job in the first half of getting to the line,” Elifritz said. “But then those numbers flip-flopped in the second half.”
That they did. The Vikings didn’t send the Tigers to the line once in the third or fourth quarters, while Miami East went 8 for 11 during that same stretch — including 7 for 9 in the fourth quarter.
But it was the way Miami East kicked off the second half that really changed the game. Emily Kindell hit a 3 on the Vikings’ first possession, then Trina Current found Ashley Current with a lob inside for a layup to give the lead back to East. Trina Current then scored a transition bucket inside and Samantha Skidmore stole the ball and took it in for a layup to make the score 29-24 and force a Versailles timeout. But Trina Current connected on a fadeaway jumper to give the Vikings a seven-point lead, completing an 11-0 run.
Again the Tigers responded, this time by scoring the next 10 in a row and finishing the third with a 13-1 run of their own. Rachel Kremer and Amanda Winner hit back-to-back 3s to cut the lead to 31-30, then a bucket in the paint by Katie Heckman gave the lead back to Versailles. A putback by Winner in transition made it 34-31 before a free throw by Trina Current ended the run, but Kremer sank another 3 and Versailles went into the fourth holding a 37-32 advantage.
The Tigers led by as many as seven at 41-34, but a three-point play on a putback by Trina Current kept the Vikings in the game. Skidmore then grabbed an offensive rebound and found Angie Mack, who converted another three-point play to cut the deficit to one.
And that’s when Kindell came up big. She fouled while shooting a 3 and sank all three free throws to give the Vikings a 43-41 lead with three minutes to play, putting all of the pressure on Versailles.
“Emily has a lot of confidence right now, and we’re trying to feed off of that,” Elifritz said. “She’s very aggressive and plays with a lot of energy.”
Christa Puthoff scored inside to tie the game, but another free throw by Kindell made it 44-43 East. Heckman hit a short jumper to put Versailles up by one with two minutes to go, but Trina Current tied the game with a free throw and both defenses made big plays to make sure it stayed that way.
On the first possession of overtime, Skidmore grabbed a defensive rebound and drew a foul, connecting on one free throw to give the Vikings a 46-45 lead. That’s the way things stayed as Versailles missed the front end of a one-and-one, then Kindell hit a pair of free throws with 40.6 seconds left to make it 48-45.
Kayla McEldowney drew a foul on a 3-point attempt, but she was only able to make the first two free throws. Ashley Current hit a free throw to make it 49-47 East with 15.6 seconds left, and then she grabbed the rebound on a Versailles miss at the buzzer to seal the win.
Kindell finished with a game-high 11 points, going 8 for 9 from the line as the Vikings were 17 for 24 as a team. Trina Current matched her with 11 points and added seven rebounds and Ashley Current had eight points and a game-high 13 rebounds as Miami East outrebounded Versailles by a whopping 41-26 margin.
Renee DeFord added six points and five rebounds, Angie Mack scored six points and Skidmore had five points, four rebounds and three assists.
“We preached that (rebounding) all week long,” Elifritz said. “Renee got in there and scrapped for some rebounds, and Sam did as well. We talked about three things this week — rebounding, free throws and turnovers. And we won two of those three things today.”
Emily Harman led Versailles with nine points and five rebounds and Kremer added another nine points. Olivia Schlater came off the bench to score seven points — all in the first half — Winner added six points and five rebounds and Puthoff had five points and six rebounds.
And with the window for voting for seeds in today’s sectional tournament draw already closed, the game was solely to help both teams prepare for the tournament itself — and it certainly did that.
With the Vikings sticking the landing … even if it didn’t resemble figure skating in the slightest.
“It was the exact opposite, actually,” Elifritz said. “But the premise of what I said is still true.”
Versailles — 47
Rachel Kremer 2-3-9, Amanda Winner 2-1-6, Olivia Schlater 3-0-7, Courtney Prenger 0-0-0, Lauren Bruns 1-1-4, Taylor Winner 0-0-0, Kayla McEldowney 0-2-2, Brooke Pothast 0-1-1, Christa Puthoff 2-1-5, Emily Harman 3-3-9, Katie Heckman 2-0-4. Totals: 15-12-47.
Miami East — 49
Jessica Barlage 0-0-0, Angie Mack 2-1-6, Samantha Skidmore 2-1-5, Ellie Gearhart 0-2-2, Renee DeFord 3-0-6, Emily Kindell 1-8-11, Ashley Current 3-2-8, Trina Current 4-3-11. Totals: 15-17-49.
Score By Quarters
Vers9 24 37 45 47
ME15 20 32 45 49
3-point goals: Versailles — Kremer 2, A. Winner, Schlater, Bruns. Miami East — Mack, Kindell.
Records: Versailles 16-3. Miami East 17-1.
JV score: Versailles 66, Miami East 22.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 440-5251 or email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.