A frighteningly young South Sioux City team which boasts at least four players destined to play college basketball dealt Vermillion a humbling 85-41 loss Friday.
The Tanagers, however, suffered much more than their first defeat in three games when senior guard Erik Ustad was lost in the second quarter with what appeared at the time to be an ominously serious knee injury. No definite word on Ustad's status was available at the beginning of this week.
South Sioux City's man-to-man pressure defense stifled the Tanagers, who found it extremely difficult to snare rebounds against the much taller Cardinals or, for that matter, to get off decent shots at the hoop.
Four points from Cole Andre on a free throw and a three-point basket tied the game early at 4-4. Another trey from Ustad put Vermillion ahead 7-5, but from that point on there was nothing the Tanagers could do to stop the Cardinal floodwaters. South Sioux went on a 21-0 run that extended into the second period and led 26-7 before the Tanagers scored again.
The 22-7 first-quarter deficit extended to 51-21 at halftime and 73-29 after three periods. The Cardinal starters were still playing through almost all of that time, and the five starters took the court to begin the final period. Eventually when the South Sioux lead reached 49 points at 80-31, substitutes took their places.
South Sioux forced 28 Tanager turnovers while committing only three of its own. Austin Groth scored 24 points, Mike Gesell 19, Trey Closter 10 and Alex Groth 10 for the winners.
Kylen Freidel and Jason Rasmussen led Tanager scoring with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Ustad had six, Andre four, Austin Krier four, Nile Morecraft four and Jarron Sorenson one. Rasmussen and Freidel were Vermillion's rebounds leaders with six caroms each.
"We felt we could have competed a little harder," Coach Jay Drake said Saturday. After the Tanagers' two exhilarating season-opening upset wins over Harrisburg and Lennox, Drake said the team "took a step backward" but remained pleased to be 2-1 after three contests.