That all changed in the second half. McCook Central figured out how to break the Tanagers' offensive rhythm by either stealing the ball or causing a poor shot at the hoop.
At the same time, the Cougars became more confident on the court as the Tanagers' defensive pressure wasn't enough to stop a string of second half scoring.
Vermillion trailed by only 2 at the end of the first quarter. McCook Central held a 20-18 lead when both teams went to the locker room at halfttime.
At the end of the third quarter, however, Vermillion found itself trailing 28-35. They found themselves trying to play catch-up throughout the fourth quarter, and had to resort to fouling their opponents in their attempt to step up their defense against the Cougars.
The Tanagers lost to the Cougars 39-51.
"Defensively, I think our kids played hard today," said coach Jamie Parish. "But we didn't play very smart. They made some big baskets on our mental mistakes."
The Cougars sank 7 of 19 field goal attempts in the first half, and were able to get 8 of 20 attempts to go through the hoop in the second half. Vermillion field goal shooting was 7 of 21 and 8 of 26 in the first and second halfs respectively.
The Tanagers' fouling, and the success of the Cougars at the free throw line, was a key to McCook Central's victory. The Cougars made 3 of 5 free throw attempts in the first half, and 14 of 19 shots from the charity stripe in the second half. McCook Central was nearly as generous to the Tanagers; Vermillion was 3 for 3 in free throw shooting in the first half, and sank 4 of 5 in the second half.
"Offensively, I think we played a bit intimidated," coach Parish said. "It wasn't for lack of effort, but we were timid when it was time to make shots. We've been known this year as a team that can make 3-pointers and jump shots, and when they don't go in, it makes for a long afternoon."
Annie Roche was top scorer for the Tanagers with 14 points, followed by Alicia Brown, who drained 12, and Michelle Olson, who made 7. Olson grabbed 7 rebounds, followed by Brown with 5 and Paige Prosser with 4.
"Annie Roche came out and played very well today," coach Parish said. "As usual, she handled the ball for us, made some key shots and key assists, but unfortunately, we weren't able to put the ball in the basket."