Jacki Stonebraker’s first trip to the girls basketball state
tournament yielded an air-balled free throw. Justine Raterman’s first
trip to state ended in missed opportunity.
This season, the sisters got even.
Jacki Stonebraker’s first trip to the girls basketball state tournament yielded an air-balled free throw. Justine Raterman’s first trip to state ended in missed opportunity.
This season, the sisters got even.
Completing Ohio’s only undefeated girls basketball season, Versailles captured the Division III state title on March 10 with a 51-33 win over Sugarcreek Garaway at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.
Raterman, the team’s 6-1 senior centerpiece, had 44 points, 29 rebounds, eight assists and six steals in the title game and a semifinal win over vaunted South Euclid Regina.
The performance capped a season in which the University of Dayton recruit was named Division III first-team All-Ohio for the second time and became Versailles career scoring leader (1,672 points).
Stonebraker, a head coach in just her fifth season, delivered a second straight state tournament berth and the first basketball title – boys or girls – to her alma mater. The Tigers also secured the program’s first Midwest Athletic Conference championship.
As a result of their heroics, Raterman and Stonebraker have been named the Ohio High Magazine/Huntington Bank Ohio Girls Basketball player and coach of the year, respectively.
Before ending up at the popular Versailles establishment Sideliners the night of the state championship, there was still enough time for the duo to record one more memory.
Exiting the bus, Stonebraker and Raterman descended one final time as player and coach.
“I had that little twitch in my eye that this was the last time we were going to get off the bus together,” Stonebraker said. “It hit me that that was the last time she was going to put that uniform on. I knew it was probably one of the last times we’d be together in basketball.”
The two will always be family.
The oldest of four Raterman siblings, Stonebraker was the first to have basketball success. All the others followed.
Stonebraker was a freshman the first time Versailles made the state tournament in 1992. The trip ended in a 61-48 loss to Loudonville.
“I was like a deer caught in the headlights my freshman year,” Stonebraker said. “It was a big blur. We didn’t know what to expect. I do remember that at the end of the game I had a chance to make some free throws and I air-balled the first one. We were down by 15 or something so it didn’t really matter, but it was quite embarrassing. I made the second.”
By the end of her high school career, Stonebraker earned a scholarship to Bowling Green. She played forward for four years for the Falcons and earned All-Mid-American Conference honors as a junior and senior.
Upon graduation Stonebraker landed a job as a math teacher at Versailles and got married. Coaching came next.
“In high school I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but it never crossed my mind that I’d be a head coach and coach at my alma mater,” Stonebraker said. “I just knew I wanted to be a teacher at a small school – like here or St. Henry or Marion Local – and help out as much as I could. I really liked sports and always felt like they had been important in making me the person I am today so I wanted to help out once I started teaching.”
Helping out her varsity coach Tim Barga, Stonebraker started with the freshman team.
She says she coached reserve one year, but that’s because “we didn’t have a freshman team and he moved the JV coach up to a varsity assistant.”
When Barga resigned following the 2002-03 season, Stonebraker made a play for the head coaching gig – and got it.
“I figured if I was going to do it now was the time,” Stonebraker said. “I had no idea what this job entailed.”
Stonebraker’s first year the Tigers finished 5-16. She admits, though, that she never felt overwhelmed or that she was in over her head.
“We were 5-16, but it didn’t feel like that,” Stonebraker said. “We may have gotten destroyed once by Fort Loramie by like 20 or something, but we were in every game other than that. We just didn’t know how to win. I sat there trying to figure out how we were going to teach them to win and that was the only problem.”
The next year Stonebraker started Raterman as a freshman and also brought fellow frosh Emily Bohman off the bench as the sixth man. Things improved rapidly.
“Once Justine and Emily and the other freshmen that year came things started to change,” Stonebraker said. “They were undefeated in junior high and they knew how to win. They brought a different mind-set.”
Indeed, Versailles is 83-18 since the start of the 2004-05 season.
Raterman’s recollection of basketball begins with trips to practices and games of her older brothers and sisters.
In addition to Jacki, older sister Julie was on Versailles’ 1998 state final four team and played in college at West Liberty (W.Va.) State. Older brother Joe played football, basketball and baseball for the Tigers and is currently an assistant coach on the girls staff.
“(Justine) was a gym rat from Day One,” Stonebraker said. “She was watching my junior high games at the age of 1.”
“I can remember being in kindergarten and writing about how Jacki was at Bowling Green and how cool that was,” Raterman said. “That was kind of the first big impact they had on me when I was that young.”
Raterman’s impact on Versailles has been enormous. A standout in both volleyball and basketball and a four-year starter in each, Raterman has left her mark on Tigers lore.
In volleyball, she was named Division III All-Ohio three times, including first team twice, and recorded over 1,000 career kills. With Raterman in the rotation, the Tigers went 93-16 the last four years with three regional final (2004, 2006, 2007) appearances. Versailles was a regional semifinalist in 2005.
“Now I can definitely say that basketball is my true love,” Raterman said. “It is the first sport I played. I really loved volleyball too and it came easier to me. I was really a natural at it.”
Raterman had visions of trying to play both sports in college but refocused on one heading into last winter. She chose hoops.
“I sat down and thought about it hard,” Raterman said. “I finally knew I was only going to play one and I basically realized I couldn’t imagine going to college for four years and not playing basketball. Although volleyball is a part of my life, basketball is a part of my family’s life. It’s always been there.”
Family is what led Raterman to Dayton. Despite receiving feelers from higher-profile programs, Raterman choose to stay close to home and play for the Flyers. Her impact should be immediate.
“The people I’m going to be surrounded by the next four years are second to none and I’m excited about that,” Raterman said. “UD was the school that recruited me first and they were always there. The one thing I liked about coach (Jim) Jabir compared to the other coaches was that everyone else tried to sell me their program and Coach Jabir sold me to myself. He made me believe in myself and in how much he thinks I can improve. It was different to look my growth individually.”
“Family is huge for her,” Stonebraker said. “She had looks at bigger schools but she never had that offer. She never had that Ohio State or that Notre Dame that committed to her. I think she just felt more at home at UD.”
As a basketball player, Raterman’s versatility is her biggest strength. The team’s leading scorer (17.7 points per game) and rebounder (9.5 rpg), Raterman also ranked near the team lead in assists and steals. She can play anywhere.
“Justine was one of the shorter girls in junior high and played point guard,” Stonebraker said. “She was 5-7 in eighth grade. That really helped her ball handling skills a lot and that’s why she can face the basket and do so many things with the ball.
“She still has areas to improve in. She doesn’t shoot the three real consistently, but if a post player wants to guard her she’s going to pull her out and go right around. If a smaller player wants to guard her we’ll just post her up and there’s not much you can do against that.”
In the Tigers’ impressive semifinal win over Regina, Raterman played the point and was effective when Versailles needed her to be.
“I think when you look at me sometimes you don’t expect a lot of great things,” Raterman said. “It’s a lot of fun to be able to prove someone wrong, especially all the critics who say you might be a step too slow or an inch too short. It’s fun to step up your game to meet a challenge.”
Both Stonebraker and Raterman solidified their resumes this winter with the state championship.
For Stonebraker, the title was a cornerstone in what’s fast becoming a career of note. In addition to the past two state tournaments, Versailles was a regional finalist in 2006.
The semifinal victory over Regina also marked the first time in 11 state games that the Royals had not come out on top. In five previous trips to state, head coach Pat Diulus and Regina were 10-0 with five state titles. Many expected them to get No. 6 this season.
“I had watched (Regina) a couple times on tape and I was in awe,” Stonebraker said. “I was like, ‘Holy Cow, what are we going to do … they can do everything.’ I told the girls just like I told the girls last year against Anna and Cleveland Central Catholic that we could beat this team because I felt we were the better team. Were we going to have to have a pretty good night? Yeah, but I still believe we were a better team than Cleveland Central Catholic or Regina was.
“You have to play defense. That’s the key and our defense was strong. We made them work for every shot. (Duke recruit) Shay (Selby) had to work for everything she got. And our offense was on. It was just on. My assistant told me that if we were within 10 points at halftime that was a good night for us. We were up by four.”
Had a spectator who didn’t know already been asked after the Regina-Versailles game which player was a Duke recruit, many would have likely answered “Raterman” instead of Regina’s Selby. That’s not a knock on the Royals senior, regarded by many as one of the top players in the country; it’s a testament to the performance Raterman recorded.
It also led one media member along press row to utter the challenge of “finding five better girls basketball players in the state than Raterman.” That’s a challenge the Associated Press unknowingly accepted by not having Raterman among the finalists for the agency’s prestigious Ms. Basketball award.
Raterman was unfazed – unlike the Tigers competition.
“I wasn’t worried about (Ms. Basketball) at all,” Raterman said. “I was only worried about the state championship and that’s what I got. I’m not sure those other five girls can say that. I have a state championship and that’s what’s important to me.”
Said Stonebraker: “Awards are nice for individuals, but the sweetest award you can get is the ring we have for being state champions.
“Nothing can top that.”