VHS Tanagers Ruminations By Jim Prosser The Tanagers, having completed the 17-game regular season undefeated, the team had as its next task to qualify for the state tournament.
The sectional tournament was comprised of Vermillion, 17-0, Yankton, 14-3 (I had been misinformed about their season record), Canton, 13-8, and Lennox, 5-13. The teams were seeded by records so #1 Vermillion faced #4 Lennox in Vermillion and #2 Yankton entertained #3 Canton in Yankton for the first round games. The sectional finals were assigned to the winner of the Yankton/Canton game.
The Orioles from Lennox remembered their 25-point loss during the season and were determined to avoid the same fate in the sectional. To accomplish this they played a slowed down, control offense as the Tanagers played a passive defense during the first half, which resulted in a 15-12 Vermillion lead entering the third quarter.
The tandem of Okerlund and Wagner led a 20-point scoring blitz, each contributing 8 to the total, and the team holding Lennox to 11 points for a third quarter lead 35-23 and a final score of 52-36. Rebounding was a big part of the victory with the Tanagers having a 35-19 advantage. Also, the Orioles were forced into 20 turnovers in the game.
Okerlund was the leading scorer with 18 points, followed by Wagner's 12, and Renner's 9. Kevin Iverson came off the bench in his reserve role and pulled down 10 rebounds.
It was expected that VHS would be playing Yankton in the sectional final � but Coach Elwood Dietrich of Canton had other ideas and the Yankton Bucks coach was "shocked and dismayed" when the upset -minded C-Hawks won 71-67, sending the Tanagers to Canton for the championship game in the sectional.
In another hard-fought defensive struggle, the teams were close on the scoreboard through most of the game, with the Tanagers needing a late score to end the game in a tie. Trailing 46-44 in overtime, with seven seconds left, Steve Renner won a scramble for a loose ball and was fouled. He promptly made both ends of the 1 and 1 free throws to tie the score again.
The second over time period was dominated by the Tanagers and the final score was 62-55 as Wagner scored six of his team leading 16 points in the second O.T. Okerlund had 15 and the team averaged 47 percent from the field.
The victory sent Vermillion to the South Dakota State Class A tournament where they faced the #2 ranked team (Aberdeen Central, 19-1) in the first round. (Teams were not seeded at that time � the pairings were drawn by lot.)
The Tanagers led at the half 24-18 but fell behind, being outscored 19-8 in the third quarter. They were unable to overcome the deficit and suffered the first loss of the year 51-41 to the eventual state champ. Blaze Okerlund was high-point man with 16 and Scott Wagner scored 12.
The second round opponent was the Mitchell Kernels and again the scoring was tight with tie scores 12-12 after one quarter, 28-28 at half-time, and a final score 51-48 as the Tanagers lost their second heartbreaker to send them to the seventh place game against the Lead Hardrockers.
Okerlund had 25 points and 11 rebounds; Wagner had 18 points and nine rebounds
The game against Lead was "no contest" as Vermillion jumped out to a 18-8 lead and never looked back ending up with a lopsided 75-41 win for the Tanagers. Okerlund was top scorer with 20 points; Wagner and Doug Martin each scored 12.
Blaze Okerlund and Scott Wagner made the all-tournament team � Okerlund with 61 points and 28 rebounds led all players; Wagner had 42 points and 18 rebounds.
This article ends the current series on the Tanager "undefeated" teams of the past. "Ruminations" will take a hiatus for now.