Mirroring Coldwater’s win over Youngstown Cardinal Mooney in the Division IV state football final in December, Versailles chalked up another memorable Midwest Athletic Conference victory in state competition with a dominant 75-60 victory over South Euclid Regina in a Division III semifinal at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center. Regina entered the contest 10-0 in state games with five state titles. The Tigers were 0-3 in state semifinals.
COLUMBUS – Both Versailles and South Euclid Regina accomplished feats at the girls basketball state tournament Friday that neither had experienced before. Unfortunately for the latter, it’s not something the Royals wanted to record.
Mirroring Coldwater’s shocking win over Youngstown Cardinal Mooney in the Division IV state football final in December, Versailles chalked up another memorable Midwest Athletic Conference victory in state competition with a shockingly dominant 75-60 victory over Regina in a Division III semifinal at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.
Regina (24-3) entered the contest 10-0 in state games with five state titles. The Tigers (26-0) were 0-3 in state semifinals.
Versailles goes for its first state title Saturday at 6 p.m. against Sugarcreek Garaway.
“I thought we had our record to prove and our schedule to prove because they probably looked at us and said well they don’t play anybody,” Versailles head coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “You can’t go 26-0 and not play anybody.”
“I’m not really familiar with their conference very much other than I know it’s a competitive conference,” Regina head coach Pat Diulus said. “Certainly we felt comfortable with our schedule, I can’t comment on theirs, but we certainly had ourselves prepared playing the teams we did. But we didn’t look prepared today did we?”
The main catalysts for Versailles were seniors Justine Raterman and Emily Bohman who tied for game-high honors with 27 points apiece. It was just the second time in state tournament history that teammates scored 27 or more points in the same game.
Raterman, a University of Dayton recruit, also added a D-III semifinal record 19 rebounds and six assists. Bohman’s tally pushed her past 1,000 for her career.
The duo, which exited to a chorus of cheers and a standing ovation with 13 seconds left, single-handedly outscored Regina until the Royals erupted for six 3-pointers in the final 1:24 to cushion the score.
The outcome was decided long before.
Versailles led 26-22 at halftime and 42-33 after three quarters. The Tigers opened the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run and never led by less than 12 points the rest of the way. With 1:34 to go, a Raterman three-point play pushed the advantage to 63-42.
Regina’s last lead, 20-18, came with 4:06 left in the second quarter.
“Give absolute credit to Versailles,” Diulus said. “I don’t think it was any surprise what they did as far we were concerned. I think they just outexecuted us and there’s really no other way to describe it. We knew they had two prime players who would score most of their points and that’s what happened. We were unable to stop it. We tried different things and it just wasn’t our day. It was a sound beating and not something we’re used to.”
Regina standout Shay Selby scored 16 points, which included two 3-pointers in the final 28 seconds. The Duke recruit was hampered by an ankle injury and foul trouble for much of the game, registering just two points and three fouls in the first half. Selby came in averaging 24.6 points per game. Senior Mercedes Mitchell led the Royals with 19 points.
Versailles had a lot to do with Selby’s performance, rotating players at will on the guard. Senior Mallory Barga drew the assignment early and often.
“We started with Mallory Barga our defensive specialist on her and she takes that as a challenge every time she gets that job,” Stonebraker said. “Once Mallory got a couple fouls on her we switched Olivia Liette on her with her long wingspan. We even put Laura Schlater on her in the second quarter because we were in foul trouble. We just kept throwing different defenses at her.”
Said Selby: “They played up on the ball. Most people play a sagging man and sit back, but they came up on me. I still could have played better. I should have hit the shots I missed.”
Raterman and Bohman had no such trouble handling Regina’s defense.
The lone returning starters from last year’s team that lost in the state semifinals to Cleveland Central Catholic, Raterman and Bohman shined on the big stage. So did their teammates.
“I think that being here last year got us started,” Raterman said. “It gave us a taste of it. Coming in this year we knew we weren’t going to settle for anything. Last year we were just excited to get here. This year we wanted so much more. We weren’t going to back down.”
“We knew we didn’t want to just be back here,” Stonebraker echoed. “We wanted to win the championship and we knew we had to go through Regina to do that.”
Despite its undefeated record and owning the No. 1 ranking in the state poll all season, Versailles entered the game as the underdog. Stonebraker went so far as to call her team that.
Saturday against Garaway, the Tigers will wear the other shoe and be highly favored.
“That’s alright,” Stonebraker said. “These girls know how to play with pressure. They know how to play with a mark on their back. There’s no letdown with this team.”
During the postgame handshakes, Stonebraker pulled Selby aside and whispered in her ear. What did she say?
“I told her to keep her head up and that she has a bright future ahead of her,” Stonebraker said. “I told her to enjoy the next four years as a Duke player because those are going to be some of the best years of her life. I never played at her level but I did play Division I basketball (at Bowling Green). I can’t wait to watch her on TV.”
Sometime in the second half, Stonebraker looked up and shook her head.
“I looked up at the scoreboard in the third or fourth quarter, I can’t remember when, and I saw that Bohman had 25 points and Justine had 23 and I was amazed,” Stonebraker said. “I really didn’t think that they had scored that many points but then I looked at how many points we had as a team and it was 60. We don’t score 60 points in a game.”
Versailles’ 75 points was its third highest output this season. The Tigers scored 89 against Camden Preble Shawnee and 84 against Union City Mississinawa Valley.
Although she has the ability to play anywhere on the floor, Raterman usually makes her living in the post and on the wing. Against Regina, tough, Raterman ran the point for much of the contest. Turns out the 6-foot-1 senior has experience handling the ball, having played the position in seventh- and eighth-grade.
“Whatever the team needed I did,” Raterman said. “I stepped into that role and we were able to get our offense going and that was what was important.”
Versailles set an all division’s state semifinal record for free throws made by hitting 26-of-33. The Tigers made 21-of-26 in the fourth quarter alone.
Stonebraker and Raterman share another bond besides coach and player. They are also sisters.
“I took the job five years ago and I was just trying to survive that first year so I could get the job again the next year when (Justine) was a freshman,” Stonebraker said. “I don’t ever think we’ve talked about winning a state title as a family. It’s just never crossed our minds.”
It might now.
Brother Joe Raterman is an assistant coach as well.
Selby aggravated a lingering ankle injury she suffered a month ago in the first quarter. She exited the game at the 3:49 mark and returned at 2:41.
“I was a little hesitant to go in a drive as much,” Selby said. “I tried to play it safe a little more. It wasn’t on my mind much but it did slow me down a little defensively.”
With a victory, Regina would have had the opportunity to play for its sixth state title. A victory there would have tied the Royals with Pickerington for the most championships in history.
Regina won four straight titles from 2000-03 and added another in 2005. That kind of run earns a reputation and reaction.
“The issue here is that we’ve set a bar that’s impossibly high,” Diulus said. “And we’ve set the bar ourselves, no question about it. When we lose a game it’s man bites dog but we have to come to expect that and live with that and that’s ok. The kids understand that to a degree but they’re still 14, 15, 16 and 17 year old kids and I can’t expect them to fully understand that. This reputation preceded them. I’m sure today will give them an illustration of what that’s all about.”
“We never felt that we were in control. We knew Regina was a great team. We knew they had the will to come back. We knew we had to keep playing the defense we were playing.” – Bohman
“(Raterman) was different because she was more on the perimeter and guarding her out there was a little different than being on the block. Trying to make the adjustment was hard. She’s a good player.” – Mitchell on guarding Raterman
“There’s no question we couldn’t get into sync. It boils down to execution. We looked like we were in slow motion. We stood around too much on offense and stood around on defense. Consequently you saw the result.” – Diulus