By Josh Brown
SPRINGFIELD – Miami East girls basketball coach Preston Elifritz talked about the two kinds of pain after Wednesday’s game.
“There’s the pain of discipline, and the pain of regret,” he said. “The pain of discipline is what got the girls to this point, their hard work that earned them this many games, three-straight district titles and three-straight regional tournament berths. I want them to feel that more than the pain of regret tonight, to focus on what got the here.”
Versailles was just as disciplined Wednesday night, and after the Vikings fought back from a 12-point deficit to take a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter, the Tigers forced back-to-back turnovers to reclaim the lead and held on from there, going 10 for 11 from the free throw line in the fourth to seal a 47-40 victory in the Division III regional semifinal round at Springfield High School.
Versailles will face Greeneview Saturday for the right to go to next week’s state tournament.
“If we’re going to lose, it’s going to be to a program like Versailles, one we’ve tried to emulate throughout the years,” Elifritz said. “The last five attempts, we got them. This time, though, they got us. Give them all the credit in the world. They’re a very talented basketball team.”
But Versailles’ strength that paid off the most Wednesday was its depth.
Eight Tigers got into the scorebook in the game, with Rachel Kremer coming off the bench to hit three first-half 3s and score all 11 of her points in the first 16 minutes to help Versailles pull out to a lead as big as 29-17 – and 29-19 at the break.
Miami East, meanwhile, had three different players with two or more fouls in the first half, throwing off the gameplan. And with one of those being Ashley Current, Versailles capitalized by outrebounding the Vikings 18-6 in the first two quarters.
“We made some bad decisions defensively in the first half that allowed them to penetrate,” Elifritz said. “We don’t go super deep on the bench, and (Versailles coach Jackie Stonebreaker) was able to go much deeper.”
Trina Current kept the Vikings in the game, though, going 5 for 5 from the free throw line and scoring seven first-half points. Then she brought Miami East all the way back in the third, hitting a pair of 3s to kick off an 11-point run to start the second half, scoring eight of her game-high 19 points to cut the lead to 34-30 after three.
The Vikings stayed hot in the fourth, edging their way closer while holding the Tigers to one-and-done each offensive possession – a massive turnaround on the boards from the first half. Ashley Current played a big role in that, grabbing seven of her eight rebounds in the second half. And with three minutes to play, Trina Current scored a putback that gave the Vikings a 37-36 lead – their first since the opening quarter.
“What can you say about this group of girls?” Elifritz said. “We make that run in the second half, we’re up by one with two minutes left and shooting free throws that could put us up three.”
But Miami East missed those free throws, and Versailles’ Katie Heckman (nine points, six rebounds) hit a pair to put the Tigers back on top, 38-37. Emily Harman (12 points, six rebounds) then stole the ball in the paint on the other end and Heckman scored a backbreaking three-point play on the other end to make it a 41-37 game. The Vikings continued to battle, but the closest they got was 43-40 after Emily Kindell (seven points) sank three free throws.
All told, Versailles was 13 for 15 from the line in the second half – including 9 for 10 when it mattered most.
Trina Current finished with 19 points and five rebounds, Kindell added seven points, Renee DeFord scored six and Ellie Gearhart had five.
“This senior class was special,” Elifritz said. “They’ve won the most games during a four-year stretch at the school, three straight district titles and three straight games like this in the regional. It’s just disappointing that they won’t get that state experience.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 440-5251 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.