Tanagers beat the odds; defeat EP-J By Parker Knox
Sportswriter Vermillion fans who headed east to Elk Point in the bitter cold the night of Jan. 20 probably didn't do so with a lot of hope. After all, the Tanagers, struggling through a 1-7 season up to that point, had to challenge the seventh-rated Huskies with their 7-1 record on their home court. What were the odds! But Jay Drake's Tanagers were of another mind, and when they found themselves leading after one quarter by 15-7, and when they went to halftime having outrebounded the heavily favored Huskies by a 14-5 margin and still leading 27-19, they decided this was one game they weren't going to find a way to lose. Vermillion, getting contributions from up and down the lineup, stretched its lead to as many as 13 points in the third quarter and still led 42-33 with one period to play. Then at crunch time the Tanagers fought off each hint of an EP-J rally and came home with a stunning and satisfying 59-52 victory, their second of the season. The 5-above-zero cold outside the gym felt like 85 degrees. Kylen Freidel opened the game with a basket that gave VHS a lead it would never relinquish. Who would have thought! He had a 10-point first half including a pair of back-to-back three-pointers early in the second stanza that helped make the Tanagers believe in themselves. Moments earlier, Aaron Steele had scored consecutive baskets to stretch Vermillion's lead. Blaine Olson had six of his team's first nine points in the crucial second half, and Jason Rasmussen had four points but also three assists. In the fourth period the Tanagers, as EP-J made its attempts to claw back into the game, committed only one turnover despite the pressure. When the Huskies crept to within 46-41, Cole Andre answered with a three-pointer. Later when EP-J stole the ball and scored, then immediately hit another three-pointer and were within 51-48, Olson worked his way underneath and scored with 2:05 left. And finally when EP-J came back once more to within 55-50, Freidel banked home a clutch shot off the backboard. Could the Tanagers hold a five-point lead for the final minute? They did, thanks in part to Rasmussen's four straight free throws to salt away the victory. "We had played well in stretches against top-10 teams earlier," Drake said, "but this time from beginning to end we played every possession. We played our best game of the year. It was nice to see the kids rewarded for their hard work and effort." Freidel's 18 points, Olson's 14 and Rasmussen's 10 led Vermillion offensively. Freidel and Rasmussen also had six assists apiece. For the Huskies Luke Frankl scored 16, Josh Gross 10 and Ben Staum 10. Vermillion ….. 15 27 42 59 EP-J ………. 7 15 33 52 VHS: Ustad 0-0 0-0 0, Steele 2-2 0-0 4, Rasmussen 2-3 5-6 10, Andre 2-3 0-0 6, Robinson 0-0 0-0 0, Johnson 1-4 2-3 4, Freidel 7-11 2-5 18, Olson 6-9, 2-6 14, Nemec 1-2 1-2 3. Totals 21-34 12-22 59. EP-J: 21-48 7-13 52.