SPRINGFIELD – West Liberty-Salem and Versailles clashed in a Division III girls basketball regional semifinal at Springfield High School Wednesday night, with Versailles prevailing, 46-37.
The first half was a thrilling back-and-forth affair, with each team trading baskets. Neither squad was able to gather more than a four-point lead, thanks to sharp press defense and a few missed shots by each side.
“We played about as well defensively as I thought we could,” WL-S Coach Dennis McIntosh said.
While reigning state champion Versailles relied heavily on Lauren Monnin’s 19 points, West Liberty-Salem spread the ball around, led by Mikalia McIntosh’s 9 points. Gabby Hollar scored 8 points for WL-S and Jamie Peterson had 6.
Peterson’s lack of scoring, in particular, stood out.
“I thought we probably tried to force it in to her a couple times, but there were some times when we should have gotten it to her and didn’t, too. They play good pressure defense all over the floor. That makes it tough on your passers,” McIntosh said.
And there wasn’t anything WL-S could do about Monnin early.
“She made some nice moves inside and scored some baskets for them,” McIntosh said. “They’ve got some nice players on that team.”
The second half saw Versailles extend the lead to as many as nine before the “visiting” Tigers on the scoreboard came roaring back to cut the lead to a single point.
“They fought back. I’m proud of the way they came back and fought. We finally hit some shots there at the end of the third quarter,” McIntosh said. “I thought our game plan was good tonight and we executed for the most part.”
Despite that, WL-S (23-4) was never quite able to get over the hump, curbed by a series of sloppy possessions and missed baskets.
“We had some opportunities there early in the fourth quarter and didn’t take advantage of them,” McIntosh said. “We had some turnovers at some really inopportune times when we were down only three or four points there.”
Those missed chances made the final score a bit more lopsided than the game played out. Regardless, WL-S goes home and Versailles (21-6) marches on in its quest for a repeat state championship.
West Liberty-Salem will lose some talent to graduation, but none will be missed next season quite like Peterson, the big, athletic presence in the middle.
“Just from how she’s grown from her freshman year to now has just been unbelievable,” McIntosh said. “I wasn’t even sure how great of a basketball player she was going to be, but she really put a lot of time into it. Even with her volleyball, she put time into her basketball and made herself better.”
Peterson was recently selected to play in the North-South All Star Classic on April 23. That game is scheduled to be played at Denison University with tip-off at 2 p.m.
Boys basketball awards
The WL-S boys basketball end of season awards banquet will be held March 8 at 7:30 p.m. Cake and punch will be served and provided by the athletic department. Athletes must be in attendance to receive their awards.
The high school cheerleaders will have their end of season awards ceremony March 8 at 7 p.m. This is awards only, no food will be served.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.