Playing yet another tough opponent the day after practice was wiped out by the weather, the Vermillion Tanagers nevertheless found a way to make a game of it against West Central Tuesday after falling behind early.
But in the end West Central's height created enough opportunities for them and denied enough Tanager chances so that the Trojans prevailed in Big Eight play, 50-44.
Boasting four players taller than Vermillion's tallest man, West Central had a 34-23 rebounding advantage, yet the Tanagers were still within five at halftime, 27-22. Coming out of the intermission, however, West Central scored seven quick points, and from then on the Tanagers were literally looking up at the Trojans.
There are always a couple comebacks in this Vermillion ballclub, and one of them cut a 12-point gap down to six midway through the third quarter. West Central built its margin back to 14 early in the final stanza.
Cole Andre was given four consecutive free throws—two on a defensive foul and two more on a technical—and he made them all. Jason Rasmussen stuffed back a rebound, and suddenly the Tanagers were within seven. At least three chances to get even closer just wouldn't fall for VHS. Nevertheless in the final minute two Kylen Freidel free throws and three more Rasmussen points kept the Tanagers close. West Central sank three free shots in the final 14 seconds to salvage its win.
The fact that West Central was able to defend the Tanagers' two leading scorers, Freidel and Andre, to a total of five field goals was a major factor. Tyler Husby led Tanager scorers with 14, Freidel had nine and Andre eight. Andre had seven rebounds and Freidel six.
Guard Mike Wenk had 14 and 6'7" center Devin Albers 10 for West Central.
S.F. Christian 63, VHS 57
Top-ranked Sioux Falls Christian, unbeaten in nine games at the time, had to resort to a 3-minute, 40-second stall tactic midway through the fourth quarter to slow a monumental Vermillion rally and escape the Tanagers in a 63-57 game at the Christian gym last Thursday.
The Tanagers' record fell to 4-6, but as they had in recent narrow losses, the VHS club battled furiously and moved the ball well against the Chargers. "Any mistakes against a good team like them are costly," Coach Jay Drake said, and the Tanagers made just enough to create a gigantic hole for themselves.
From an 8-7 lead in the early going Vermillion saw a 7-0 Christian run propel them into a 17-10 first-quarter edge. Five quick points by Cole Andre early in the second stanza got the Tanagers back to within four before Christian went on another 7-0 run. The two clubs matched three-point shots with three apiece on the way to halftime where SFC had a 34-25 lead.
The third quarter was a roller-coaster. Christian immediately went up by 12, but four points by Tyler Husby, two by Aaron Steele and five by Kylen Freidel got VHS back within six. A 10-0 Christian lead restored their lead to 16 points at 54-38, and it appeared the verdict in this game was in.
But a three-point bomb by Andre at the end of the period was an exclamation point on a 10-2 Tanager explosion that had VHS back within eight, 56-48, heading into the final quarter.
Jason Rasmussen's basket made it 56-50, and Freidel's layup and subsequent free throw with 7:00 left completed an amazing 15-2 stretch.
At that point, trying to get VHS out of its zone, Christian paid the Tanager defense a giant compliment by instituting a stall to try to force Vermillion out of its game plan. The Chargers exchanged passes out front for two minutes, then began to move the ball around just a bit. The stall continued for 3:40, culminating when SFC's Matt Vande Kamp scored for a 58-53 lead.
Austin Krier fed Husby for a Tanager basket at the 2:10 mark, and VHS was within 58-55 and on the brink of a gigantic upset. Vermillion had to begin fouling to get the ball, but with neither team in the bonus situation yet, it took awhile. Christian kept possession until less than a minute remained.
A Tanager foul with 37 seconds left finally put the Chargers into a position where they had to shoot free throws. Vande Kamp made two there, but the Tanagers refused to die, and Rasmussen scored on the eighth Freidel assist of the night to make it 60-57.
Christian was able to sink one free throw at 0:11 and two more at 0:01 to increase the final margin to six points.
"Even when we were down by 16, it seemed like we were playing them pretty well," Drake said. "Now we feel we c
an make a run on anybody."
Drake said the close call against the No. 1 "A" team will hopefully give the Tanagers confidence as they head into the final month of their schedule.
Freidel and Andre had 15 points each and led the rebounding with six and five, respectively. Husby and Rasmussen scored 10 apiece, Krier five and Steele two. Vande Kamp had 29 for Christian.
The Tanagers had four more field goals than the Chargers did, but SFC's 16-of-18 at the stripe, compared to Vermillion's 4-of-9 overcame that disadvantage.
Next week Vermillion hosts Beresford in a girls-boys doubleheader Tuesday. Then the boys complete the week at Madison next Friday, Feb. 5.