Top seeded EP-J brings
Tanager girlsâ�?�? season to end By Parker Knox
Sportswriter Vermillion's girls basketball season came to an end with a 51-45 loss to District 8A's top-seeded Elk Point-Jefferson in the district semifinals at the VHS gym last Tuesday. The Tanagers scrapped their way back from a 14-point hole midway through the third period and a 13-point deficit after the third quarter. They climbed to within three points, but EP-J clinched the win with late free throws to advance to Thursday's championship game, which they won over Dakota Valley. "They always battled," Coach Jamie Parish said after the game. "We just never found the maturity to get us through our mental lapses. The mental toughness thing is what the returning girls have to overcome." A great first quarter in which the Tanagers sank three three-pointers, two of them by the team's only senior, Sara Kjose, and worked the ball inside well, ended with a 14-12 Tanager lead. The advantage reached 20-13 early in the second period. But the Huskies' switch to man-to-man pressure resulted in four Tanager turnovers and a 14-0 EP-J run. The VHS girls never seemed to fully recover. EP-J led 27-23 at halftime, and by the end of the third quarter EP-J had outscored Vermillion 33-13 since that 20-13 Tanager lead. "We knocked them out of their zone press," Parish said of his team's early performance. "The things we prepared them for, they did a nice job with, but then when EP-J switched defenses, we panicked a little bit. Our lead turned into a deficit, and we had to battle back. There a little bit of our inexperience creeped in." Parish said the game was, nevertheless, "a step in the right direction, but unfortunately we don't have a chance to prove it until next season." The Tanagers, seemingly out of hope after three periods, were somehow within 48-42 with 2:30 left. Their next shot was blocked, and after securing a rebound at EP-J's end, the Tanagers saw their next shot lie on the rim and fall off. Vermillion had to foul several times just to get the clock stopped and EP-J to the free-throw line. Once they did, the Huskies missed at the stripe, and Kjose responded with a basket with 35 seconds remaining. The deficit was only four. Kelly Amundson stole the ball on EP-J's in-bounds pass and almost made a basket. She was fouled and made one of two free throws, so VHS was within 48-45. The Huskies made one free throw at that point, VHS missed a three-point attempt, and EP-J added two more free shots with 14 seconds left to salt away the six-point final margin. In her last game Kjose scored 11. "Sara has provided two types of leadership, not only verbally but also on the floor," Parish said. "She got to play varsity all four years and played on two state tournament teams." In looking ahead, Parish said his very young players now have had a full year of varsity experience. "Hopefully this season will be a motivator rather than a source of frustration." Sierra Allen scored 14, Amundson eight, Hannah Nehlich-Arobba seven and Lexi Regnerus six to lead the Tanagers in scoring.