Tanagers lose thriller to Beresford Vermillion drops OT, nearly repeats as Region 4A champions Tuesd

Tanagers lose thriller to Beresford Vermillion drops OT, nearly repeats as Region 4A champions Tuesday by Keith A. Brockberg The Beresford Watchdogs earned their second-ever trip to the State A Girls' Basketball Tournament as they finally got past the Vermillion Tanagers 50-46 in overtime to win the Region 4A crown Tuesday night at Canton.

On a night when both teams rode their horses, All-State candidates Mara McGill and Natalie Carda for Beresford and Ashley Bjorkman for Vermillion, an unlikely hero hit the shot that helped propel the Watchdogs to their first trip to state since 1977.

Bjorkman came out on fire as she hit three of four 3-pointers to give the Tanagers a 13-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Carda, not to be outdone by Bjorkman's 11 points, scored eight-straight points in her own right to keep Beresford within range of Vermillion, the team that slipped by them in the region final last year.

"Our goal this year was to get to the state tournament," said Beresford head coach Jerry Carda. "Last year, Vermillion was better than us; this year, we were able to get past them."

McGill took over in the second quarter as the Watchdogs went on a 14-0 run for a 25-16 lead. The senior scored 11 points in the second quarter and Brooke Bonte hit a 3-pointer as Beresford was seemingly in control.

Bjorkman scored four more points and Jackie Thomas hit a pair of free throws as Vermillion outscored Beresford 6-1 to close the Watchdog lead to 26-22 at the half.

Carda added 6 points in the third quarter and McGill got the roll on a jumper at the buzzer as Beresford held a 38-32 at the end of three quarters.

The Watchdogs seemed content to run some time off the clock in the fourth quarter as both teams combined to score a single point through the first four minutes.

That's when the Tanagers went to work.

Bjorkman drained a 3-pointer and then found Thomas wide-open underneath the basket for a lay-in. Thomas tied the game at 39-39 with 1:58 to play with a steal and a lay-up and Vermillion took a 42-39 lead when Bjorkman cued up again from long range.

The Watchdogs couldn't seem to get into their offense and were forced to shoot from downtown to tie the game.

In came Jenna Homandberg.

The senior point guard calmly dropped in a 3-pointer, her only basket of the game, with 9.2 to play to tie the game.

"It seems like every night, someone different steps up for us and tonight it was Jenna," said Jerry Carda. "We called the play for her in the huddle and she knocked it down; she had a lot of confidence and she pulled the trigger."

The Tanagers had an opportunity to win as Bjorkman got off two shots close to the basket, but as expected, she was swarmed by the entire Beresford team.

Vermillion could get little going against the Watchdogs in the overtime and Beresford hit just enough free throws, six of 14, to seal the 50-46.

Beresford held Bjorkman, who will be playing next year for The University of South Dakota Coyotes, scoreless in the free period.

With a gaudy record, it seemed the Watchdogs were a lock to finally punch their ticket to state, but Vermillion is always a force to be reckoned with in big games.

"They've got a lot of good athletes and great coach in (first-year coach Jamie) Parish," said Carda. "They forced us to play outside and they were able to get back into the game."

"Once they started playing passive, that's when our girls got aggressive," said Parish. "It sparked our run there.

"At big points in the game, they just made the plays and we didn't," added Parish.

Carda finished with a game-high 23 points and tied McGill for the team lead with 10 rebounds. McGill finished with 16 points.

Though draped with Watchdogs all night, Bjorkman scored 21 points in her final game for the Tanagers.

"She really played hard; the stats may not show it, but she played one of her best game tonight," said Parish. "She did a lot of good things that helped her team stay in the game."

Thomas, a sophomore that seems to come up with plays in big situations, scored 14 points.

"Jackie had a great game; she's definitely got some skills," said Parish. "She's just a cool-headed kid � there aren't many things that rattle her."

The Watchdogs (20-2) will begin state-tournament play next Thursday in Rapid City. The Tanagers finished their season at 11-10.

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