VHS Tanager's Ruminations By Jim Prosser With nine straight wins the Tanagers were beginning to expect things to become pretty easy to beat just about anyone on their schedule. Needless to say, the opponents had their sights set on "knocking 'em off."
The Miller Rustlers were the 10th game victims of the VHS defensive application which held them to 53 points, as the home-standing Tanagers, led by Blaze Okerland's 21 points, scored 67. Barry Baker had 12, and Scott Wagner 10.
Also, Kevin Iverson was entered in the game, having recovered from his shoulder injury, and picked off seven rebounds as well as scoring 6 points in his reserve roll.
The 11th game was played at LeMars, IA. And the Bull-dogs played a tough first half, staying within a couple of points at intermission. The boys responded to the threat by "swamping" them 57-42, holding LeMars to 12 second half points.
Wagner and Steve Renner were the leading scorers with 21 and 11 respectively, followed by Okerlund's 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Games 12, 13 and 14 became the ultimate signature of the Tanagers' season as they faced three top rated teams from the tri-state area: the Sioux City West Wolverines (the Interstate Conference leader with an 8-1 record); the South Sioux City, NE Cardinals (one of the leaders in Class AA in their conference); and the Sioux Falls Washington Warriors (one of the former ESD Conference top teams).
I can't overemphasize the defensive intensity and outstanding individual performances by both teams in each of the three games, as a total of 5 points separated the pairs of opponents in those games.
Hosting the Wolverines in a standing-room-only packed VHS gym, the see-saw battle found the Tanagers leading by 2 after the first quarter, by 2 at the half, and trailing by 2 at the end of the third quarter. Blaze Okerlund took over the game in the fourth quarter with an unbelievable 10-point, five-rebound, key steal performance to change the tempo and outcome of the 3-point victory 51-48; leading the game in scoring (23), and rebounding (13). Wagner and Doug Martin contributed 9 and 8 points, respectively.
Playing game 13 in the "mini-dome" gym at South Sioux was an experience that all participants and spectators will recall as one of the most exciting finishes of a high school basketball game. Okerlund was again the hero (twice) as he scored a 10-foot jump shot at the buzzer in overtime to salvage a 62-60 win for the first time ever on the S.S.C. gym.
Of course, that is only part of the story � the game was tied in regulation when the Cardinals scored on a lay-up as the time on the clock ran out. But, the Tanagers had called time-out and the officials put two seconds back on the clock and awarded the ball to Vermillion under their own basket. Sophomore Kevin Seibel (who had a good throwing arm to accompany his kicking ability) threw a three-quarter court-length pass to Okerlund, who was standing near the top of the key, caught, turned and fired the tying score at the regulation game horn. (I saw the play again a few years ago when Duke University's Christian Laetner performed the same feat.)
Seibel scored two key baskets in overtime and Okerlund led the scoring with 22 points as Baker chimed in with 14 (6 for 6 F.T.), and Renner, Seibel, and Wagner contributed 6 and 8 points to the final total.Okerlund also had nine rebounds in the game.