Tanagers nearly claw way to District win By Parker Knox
Sportswriter The chance of winning their District 8A semifinal seemed hopelessly out of reach when the Vermillion Tanagers fell 14 points behind Dakota Valley a minute into the second half last week. Despite speeding up their own demise with 24 turnovers –12 in each half – the Tanagers, true to form throughout the last part of the season, found a way to claw back into the game. They nipped at the Panthers' tails, coming within two points twice, but could never completely crawl out of the hole they helped dig for themselves. Vermillion's 46-41 loss in Beresford Thursday ended the Tanager season and concluded the high school basketball careers of seniors Tyler Johnson, Blaine Olson, Travis Jerred and Kyle Nemec. The Tanagers committed four turnovers in the first 2 1/2 minutes, but their defense prevented Dakota Valley from launching good shots. The first of Cole Andre's three three-point field goals ignited Vermillion, which led 6-2, 8-4 and, after one quarter, 8-6. But at the same time the Dakota Valley press was causing all kinds of havoc. Vermillion got off only two shots and committed five turnovers in the first five minutes of the second quarter, and Dakota Valley's 12-1 run turned the game around. It was a 25-15 score facing the Tanagers at halftime, and that gap creeped to 14, the biggest spread of the game, early in the second half. But suddenly the Tanagers hopped aboard a surge of momentum. Thanks to a 12-0 run that included a pair of three-pointers by Erik Ustad and baskets by Johnson, Nemec and Andre, VHS got the deficit down to 31-29 near the end of the third period. Another of those maddening runs by the opponent that plagued the Tanagers all season happened just when it hurt the most. Ten straight Dakota Valley points wiped away the Vermillion momentum, and a 12-point Panther lead with 6:45 remaining seemed plenty safe. But here again came the Tanagers with a 9-2 surge of their own, climaxed by Andre's final trey of the year. Down by only five with just over a minute left, the Tanagers regained possession, but the most costly of a long night of miscues led directly to a Panther layup that sealed the deal – a seven-point disadvantage with only 57 seconds to go. Dakota Valley continued to help by missing free throws – the Panthers hit only only two of 12 from the stripe in the game – but Vermillion could not connect on desperation shots when it had to, and though they were within four with 29 seconds left, the unrelenting clock ran out on the game and the season. Andre, who was six of 13 from the field, had 15 points along with six rebounds, five assists and two steals. Only four other Tanagers scored – Ustad eight, Olson seven, Johnson six and Nemec five. Olson had a team-high seven boards while Nemec pulled down four and Jason Rasmussen and Johnson three apiece. Kyle Hooks with 12 points and Matt Lupkes with 10 were Dakota Valley's leading scorers. The Panthers went on to lose to Elk Point-Jefferson in the district championship game Saturday. Vermillion ….. 8 15 29 41 D. Valley ….. 6 25 35 46 VHS: Ustad 2-7 2-2 8. Steele 0-1 -0 0. Rasmussen 0-2 0-2 0. Andre 6-13 0-0 15. Robinson 0-0 0-0 0. Johnson 2-5 2-2 6. Olson 3-7 1-2 7. Nemec 2-6 1-1 5. Totals 15-43 6-9 41. Dakota Valley: 20-51 2-12 46.