VHS Tanager's Ruminations By Jim Prosser For those aficionados of Tanager basketball it is a well-known fact that the philosophy of Vermillion High School Coach Jay Hennies was (and is) defense, defense, and controlled offense � a reflection of his collegiate training under the tutelage of The University of South Dakota Coyote's legendary coach Duane Clodfelter. The process of stopping the opposition from scoring, and controlling your own offense leads to a situation where the last few possessions in a ball game can aid the team in winning the game.
The 1976-77 VHS basketball season was the ultimate demonstration of the success of this philosophy as the scores in the first nine games will show.
The first game was against that well-known adversary � the Yankton Bucks, who usually defeated the Tanagers and were expected to be a powerhouse in the Class A division in South Dakota. In a hotly contested game, which had close scoring throughout, VHS prevailed 53-48 with Barry Baker leading the scoring and rebounds, 14 points, 11 grabs; and guard Steve Renner showing the importance of defense by "taking" five charges and contributing 12 points to the final total.(It has come to my attention that Yankton went undefeated until the district tournament).
Game #2 was a close defensive struggle for the first half which ended with a 17-17 tie. In the third quarter, Doug Martin ignited a 20-point onslaught making four of five from the field which helped to garner a team shooting percentage of 68 percent for the second half.
Scott Wagner aided the cause scoring 13 second half points and finished the game as high scorer with 17 and the Tanagers overcame Madison 55-40.
The third game was undistinguished as the VHS team shot 83 percent in the first quarter to build a 22-6 advantage and coasted to a 63-43 final score and West Sioux (Hawarden, IA) became the third victim of the Tanager defensive activity. Top scorers were Blaze Okerlund with 15 and Doug Martin's 11 points.
Sometimes luck takes charge in determining the outcome of a game. This was the case in game #4 against Sioux Falls O'Gorman. It is not to denigrate the efforts of the team, which out-rebounded the Knights 27 to 20, and went 11 for 13 from the charity stripe. But � the score was 44-43 O'Gorman with one second left on the clock when Blaze Okerlund tipped in a Scott Wagner jump shot miss at the buzzer to secure the 45-44 victory. A key player in this game was Kevin Iverson who scored a high 14 points while grabbing nine rebounds.
Games five and six were played at the west river schools at Winner and Todd County on an overnight double header. At the Winner Warriors game, it took a half to loosen the muscles from the long bus ride and the score was close (5-point difference) when the third quarter found the visiting Tanagers building a gigantic lead and leaving no doubt of the final 85-58 score. Double-point scorers were Okerlund with 16 and Wagner and Baker with 14 each. Baker led the rebounders with nine.
Since I've used up the column space for now, I will continue the story in the next couple of articles.