Lady Tanagers bound for state tourney

Lady Tanagers bound for state tourney by Jim Prosser The Vermillion Lady Tanagers currently are in Watertown, making their very first appearance in the South Dakota State A Girls� Basketball Tournament.

Thursday night they faced Parkston in their first tournament game in the Watertown Civic Arena.

It�s a prize that, at times during this year�s season, appeared distant.

The Lady Tanagers� season schedule included three Sioux Falls schools and four of the Class 11A teams from the previous state 11A tournament, namely Elk Point-Jefferson, West Central, Lead and Groton.

Other notable opponents this season included #1 ranked Wagner and most of the district and regional opponents.

In other words, things did not appear very bright at times for the 2000 girls� Tanager basketball team.

However, in spite of a couple 40-point losses to Sioux Falls Roosevelt and Wagner, Coach Lance Luitjens was able to regroup his charges and win seven of the first 10 games, including victories over Dakota Valley, 40-30; Elk Point-Jefferson, 47-32; Beresford, 64-32; Sioux Falls Lincoln, 41-29, Canton, 66-32; Alcester-Hudson, 71-57; and Groton, 67-31 with the only other blemish on the record being a 43-57 loss to Sioux Falls Washington.

There were only six games left on the schedule before districts, but they included Big 8 conference foes Lennox, Madison, West Central and Harrisburg.

The Lady Tanagers also made a trip to the Black Hills for a Lead �Gold Digger� Classic involving Custer and Lead. Two closely fought losses to Lennox, 45-49; and West Central, 48-54; and wins over Madison, 53-42; Custer, 64-55; Lead, 51-28; and Harrisburg, 74-46; brought the season record to a respectable 11 and 5 and a #3 seed in 11A District 8.

As state-ranked teams began to fall in district tournaments, Vermillion joined the trend and swept Alcester-Hudson, 64-55; and Dakota Valley, 64-36; to advance to the Region 4A tournament in Yankton Nov. 7.

They played Harrisburg for the championship and put an exclamation point on the season with a 77-42 victory that sealed their journey this week to the state tournament in Watertown.

Coach Luitjens is not unfamiliar with tournament action since he played in four straight South Dakota high school state tourneys. His team was victorious in two of them. This is his second year as the girls� basketball coach for Vermillion and he has compiled a 26-13 win/loss record.

The Tanager roster includes three seniors, three juniors, five sophomores, and one freshman. The starting five have mostly been comprised of Meggie Donnelly, a junior; Ashley Bjorkman, a sophomore; and seniors Jaclyn Powell, Leslie Larson and Sarah Mollet.

The first substitutes have been Carey Engstrom, a junior; and Tessa Tuetken, a sophomore; while other reserves include Brittney Gilkyson, a freshman; Abby Moore, a junior; and sophomores Allison Stewart, Whitney Tolsma and Brooke Nelson. Below are season statistics for the top seven players:

Ashley Bjorkman � 17 points per game (average), six rebounds per game (average), 43 percent field goal percentage, 81 percent free throw percentage, 26 assists and 27 steals.

Leslie Larson � 4 points per game (average), six rebounds per game (average), 55 percent field goal percentage, 33 percent free throw percentage, 6 assists and 23 steals.

Sarah Mollet � 8 points per game (average), five rebounds per game (average), 45 percent field goal percentage, 42 percent free throw percentage, 16 assists and 30 steals.

Jaclyn Powell � 6 points per game (average), two rebounds per game (average), 40 percent field goal percentage, 73 percent free throw percentage, 90 assists and 17 steals.

Meggie Donnelly � 11 points per game (average), two rebounds per game (average), 44 percent field goal percentage, 72 percent free throw percentage, 45 assists and 39 steals.

Carey Engstrom � 5 points per game (average), four rebounds per game (average), 44 percent field goal percentage, 74 percent free throw percentage, 17 assists and 23 steals.

Tessa Tuetken � 6 points per game (average), two rebounds per game (average), 38 percent field goal percentage, 74 percent free throw percentage, 29 assists and 13 steals.

Team totals � 59 points per game (average), 28 rebounds per game (average), 44 percent field goal percentage, 69 percent free throw percentage, 232 assists and 173 steals.

The remaining reserves played in most of the games and in some instances had to replace injured players in several competitions. Their individual stats are not particularly impressive but their contributions to the teams� success cannot be overlooked.

Every member of the team worked hard to achieve their goals.

Congratulations and best of luck to the Vermillion Lady Tanagers!

Editor�s note: Read next week�s Plain Talk for complete coverage of the Tanagers� play in the state tournament.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>