Down six in the final seconds of Saturday’s Division III state final, Versailles tried a 3-point attempt from the left baseline. Africentric’s Jordan Horstman sent the shot into the Versailles student section.
The sledding was tough for the Tigers.
Making their fourth trip to the state final in five years, Versailles fell 53-47 to Columbus Africentric in front of 3,572 fans at the 43rd annual OHSAA girls basketball state tournament inside Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.
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Versailles, ranked No. 1 in the state in the MaxPreps computer rankings and AP poll, ends 28-2. The Tigers, who had a 20-game win streak snapped, dropped last year’s state final 56-54 to Gilmour Academy. Versailles was state champ in 2015 and runner-up in 2014.
Africentric (27-3), ranked third by MaxPreps and sixth by the AP, claimed its sixth state title.
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“You can try to prepare for (Africentric’s athleticism) all you want, but until you face it, it’s a whole different ballgame,” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “These girls are tough cookies. They were not going to break. They still had fight in them. That’s what I love about them.”
“We’ve been to this thing nine times and won six titles,” sweat-soaked Africentric coach Will McKinney said. “Do you guys remember we looking like this after any of those games?”
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The Nubians led 15-8 at the end of the first quarter and 30-21 at halftime thanks in part to Horstman. The D-III co-player of the year and a top 10 junior prospect nationally, Horstman finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals. Sophomore teammate Alexia Smith added 22 points.
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Versailles outscored Africentric 26-23 in the second half and took a 43-42 lead with 5:06 left on a Lindsey Winner bucket. Horstman answer at the 4:15 mark for a 44-43 advantage. The Nubians never trailed again.
“When they took the lead on us, we had time left,” McKinney said. “It was just about us getting a steal and turnover and we scored four points right after that. That’s what we’ve been doing all year. We were down six with a minute left against Berlin Hiland and came back, so being down one with four minutes left wasn’t something we were panicking about.”
Versailles had 21 turnovers and hit just 7-of-16 free throws.
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“Turnovers were a little high for us,” Stonebraker said. “I feel that we had to keep pushing the ball and attacking though because every time we didn’t it looked worse. That attack-mode had to be there. We can play pretty fast, but they’re that much faster and quicker. Their arms were that much longer.”
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Senior Kami McEldowney scored a game-high 16 for Versailles. Senior Danielle Winner had seven points and eight rebounds, while Lindsay Winner had eight and nine, respectively.
Versailles’ senior class ends with 101 wins. The Tigers claimed the D-III state title in volleyball in November.
“I can’t remember any athletes at Versailles that have 100 wins in their career and these girls do,” Stonebraker said. “That’s an incredible feat considering the games we play and our strength of schedule.”