A 23-point fourth-quarter surge might be enough to rally to victory in some games. The problem is that, just prior to that final-period effort Tuesday night, the Vermillion Tanagers had endured an eight-point third quarter.
Though they were still within one shot of tying the game with 26 seconds left, the Tanagers eventually lost to Elk Point-Jefferson, 61-54.
The Tanagers missed nine of 17 free throws, including six in the crucial fourth quarter, but yet with a basket here, a basket there, or one less turnover here or there, this was still amazingly a game they could have won. One reason they were still in it till the bitter end was that the Huskies were also atrocious at the stripe, missing half of their 26 tries.
A 7-0 EP-J run to start the second quarter had opened the game up a bit, and the Huskies never trailed after that. Their lead ranged from three points to as many as 12 a minute into the final period.
But Coach Jay Drake's Tanagers, though heavily outrebounded throughout, especially in the paint at both ends of the court, persevered. With under three minutes to go, they still were in arrears by nine points. But three-point daggers by Cole Andre and Kylen Freidel and five points from Jason Rasmussen had VHS with 56-52 with 40 seconds left.
A Husky free throw at the 0:36 mark was answered by two Andre free throws at 0:26, and it was a one-possession game at 57-54. The Tanagers continued to foul quickly, hoping the Huskies would continue their mediocre free-throw shooting. But Brock Zeller and Ethan Pace sank two apiece the rest of the way to keep the Tanagers at bay.
Unofficial rebounding stats showed EP-J with 29 boards, but it seemed they had many more than that, and most of them belonged to bruising 6'5" junior Pace, who also had 19 points. All of his seven field goals came from under the basket where he simply could not be contained.
Freshman Brock Zeller contributed 16 points to Coach Cole Knippling's cause. Guards Ben Staum and Colin Viereck added eight and seven, respectively.
Vermillion's one-two punch of Andre and Freidel accounted for 39 of the team's 54 points—22 and 17, respectively. Rasmussen had seven, all in the fourth quarter, and Tyler Husby five.
Last week the Tanagers saw their record drop to 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the league with a pair of Big Eight losses on the road.
In Lennox a 20-6 second-quarter propelled the Orioles into 28-13 halftime lead, and Coach Jay Drake said that, even when things aren't going well offensively, "we have to learn to still hang in there at the other end."
In the second half the Tanagers cut their deficit to single digits a couple of times but couldn't get over that proverbial hump in a 50-38 loss.
Vermillion shot 32 percent from the field, but Lennox, while taking the same number of shots (44), connected on five more than the Tanagers did and outrebounded VHS 27-20.
Jason Rasmussen scored 11 points, Kylen Freidel nine and Tyler Husby eight to lead the offense. Freidel also had seven rebounds and two assists.
At West Central the Tanagers trailed early, 17-10 after one period, but roared to a 28-23 halftime lead and still were ahead 35-34 after three stanzas. However, the Trojans prevailed down the stretch to win by 49-45.
Freidel and Husby had 14 and 10 points, respectively, and three rebounds each. Cole Andre and Austin Krier contributed six points each, Aaron Steele five and Rasmussen four. A prominent statistic, however, was the 30-13 rebounding deficit the Tanagers couldn't offset.
Mike Wenk and Tyler Wickstrom had 14 points each and Devin Albers 11 for West Central.
The Tanagers return to action at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Dakota Valley Classic against Pine Ridge. They will be home twice next week – Tuesday against West Central and Thursday against Dell Rapids.