THE COMEBACK KIDS; 'Never say die' attitude propels Vermillion Tanagers to their second straight berth in State A tournament An unidentified fan (left) reaches up to touch the coveted Region 4A girls' basketball championship plaque hoisted in the air by Vermillion Tanager Ashley Bjorkman as she gives a congratulatory "high five" to teammate Tessa Tuetken following Vermillion's 39-35 victory over Beresford Tuesday at the Elmen Center in Sioux Falls. Also pictured are Tanagers Abby Moore, Allison Stewart and Brittney Gilkyson. The win means the Tanagers are bound for the State A Girls' Basketball Tournament for the second year in a row. Tournament action begins Nov. 15 at the Mitchell Corn Palace. by Jim Prosser The Vermillion Tanagers rallied to top the Beresford Watchdogs 39-35 in girls' basketball Nov. 6 at Elmen Center in Sioux Falls in the championship game of the Region 4A Girls' Basketball Tournament.
The Vermillion varsity had trailed by one going into the final period.
Carey Engstrom scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
"Carey really showed up big time for us," said Vermillion varsity coach Lance Luitjens. "When other teammates couldn't seem to hit their shots, Carey took over and kept us in the game."
The Tanagers fell behind 10-3 after the first quarter, but advantages of 12-9 and 13-10 in the second and third quarters sliced the deficit to only 29-28 going into the final period.
Vermillion shot only 1 for 12 from the field in the first quarter. They spent the rest of the game struggling against a tough defensive team which held the season scoring leader Ashley Bjorkman to only two field goals by using a double team, and sometimes a triple team when she touched the ball.
"It feels so strange to win a game when your opponent dominated for 30 minutes," said coach Luitjens. "Our defense kept us in the game, though. We always talk about our defense and free throws winning games. This was a night where the ball wouldn't go in the hole, but we gave ourselves a chance to win because we never let up defensively."
Except for a brief minute in the middle of the third quarter, the Vermillion girls were behind through the first 29 minutes. The only saving grace was the super job of scoring by Engstrom who helped keep the team in the hunt and the heroic effort of Tessa Tuetken who scored two three point goals (the second tied the score with 1:59 on the clock) and two free throws to take the lead with 39 seconds remaining in the game.
Meggie Donnelly contributed two free throws during the final 15 seconds to protect the winning 39-35 margin. "I'm so proud of these girls. To represent Region 4A two years in a row is an awesome feat," coach Luitjens said. "They've worked hard all year and now are rewarded with another shot at a state championship."
The Vermillion varsity improved its season mark to 16-5.
The Vermillion varsity hit 2 of 4 three-point attempts and hit 11 of 18 free throw tries. The Tanagers made 13 of 35 field goal attempts, while Beresford was 14 of 30 from the field. Beresford made 1 of 5 three-pointers and hit 6 of 11 free throw attempts.
The winners needed good efforts from several performers. "Tessa Tuetken hit some of the biggest shots of her career," coach Luitjens said. "What a clutch performer. Sometimes I have to remind her to shoot the ball. During the time-out in the fourth down three I told her if you're open you better shoot it! And what a huge shot it was. Then she confidently knocked down the two free throws that gave us the lead."
Individual Stats, Vermillion varsity: Scoring � Carrie Engstrom, 14, Tessa Tuetken, 12, Meggie Donnelly, 4, Abby Moore, 4, Ashley Bjorkman, 5. Rebounds � Engstrom, 11, Bjorkman, 6. Assists � Donnelly, 5.
Individual Stats, Beresford: Scoring � Natalie Carda, 12, Mara McGill, 10, Brook Bonte, 5, Ashley Johnson, 4, Beth Carlson, 2, Abby Bak, 1, Janna Semmler, 1. Rebounds � Carda, 10, Johnson, 5. Assists � McGill, 3.
Team rebounds: Vermillion varsity � 26, Beresford � 20. Team fouls: Vermillion varsity � 14, Beresford � 18.