With a tough week behind them and a potentially even rougher week just ahead, the Vermillion's boys' basketball team plays at home Friday night against a team they know they can beat.
The opponent will be Harrisburg, and although the Tigers stand as the current No. 1 seed in District 7A, their record is 8-6. One of those six defeats was administered by the Tanagers by a 59-58 score in the season opener Dec. 11.
Next week starts on Monday with a trek to Wagner where the No. 6-ranked Red Raiders lie in wait with a 12-2 record. After that the Tanagers have a home date next Thursday against defending state "A" champ Madison, which was unbeaten until losing Monday to Sioux Falls Christian and which dealt Vermillion a 67-31 trouncing last Friday.
"They really got after us," Coach Jay Drake said about the game at Madison. "Our zone couldn't control them in the first quarter as we had hoped. They were really playing good team basketball."
The game got out of hand early. A 7-0 Bulldog run late in the first period, topped off by a half-court buzzer-beater, ended the initial stanza with a 21-9 score. Madison then outscored the Tanagers 20-8 in the second period. Another shot at the final horn ended the half at 41-17.
"When we got down early, we didn't show the fight that we had in recent games," Drake said. The Tanagers in seven straight losses prior to the Madison trip had been within sight of victory in the fourth quarter of all of them, but this time things got no better in the second half. Madison led 53-27 after three periods and won by 67-31.
It was the lowest point total of the year for VHS and the second-highest number of points the Tanagers had allowed.
Aaron Steele and Kylen Freidel with seven points each were Vermillion's high scorers. Jason Rasmussen added six, Cole Andre five, Tyler Husby two, Austin Krier two and Nile Morecraft two.
Derrick Wiebe had a 16-point, 10-rebound, six-assist game for Madison. Michael Sullivan also scored 16 and Mitchell White 10.
Madison had a 29-20 rebounding edge but allowed the Tanagers only three rebounds off their own offensive boards. The Bulldogs had a 51 percent shooting game to the Tanagers' 33 percent.
"Our kids will be O.K., and they have a great attitude," Drake said. "We need to play hard these next three weeks and get some confidence back for the district tournament."
Tuesday night's intra-district game at Dakota Valley was nip-and-tuck through two periods, but the Panthers used a surge of momentum and team-wide quickness to force numerous Tanager errors. What was a fun game for a half turned ugly quickly after the intermission.
One play doesn't decide a game that ends 68-49, but there's no question at which point the momentum joined Dakota Valley's side. The Tanagers had the ball with eight seconds left in the first half, trailing only 26-23. The ball was knocked out of bounds with three seconds left, but the officials couldn't decide who should have possession. They gave it to Dakota Valley, and the Panthers' Matt Lupkes threw up a desperation off-balance heave that went through the net. Instead of a potential one-point game or tie, it was a six-point deficit.
The Panthers scored immediately as the second half began, and after a miss at the Vermillion end, they sank a three-pointer. The lead quickly ballooned to 13 points.
To the Tanagers' credit they tried their best to make a run to get back into the game. A stretch of four points by Freidel and five by Husby cut the lead in half down to six, but it was up to 13 again by the end of the period. The margin only grew after that until the Panthers won by 19.
Freidel scored 12, Husby 11, Andre nine, Rasmussen eight, Sam Ekstrom five, Krier two and Steele two for VHS. Krier, Freidel and Andre had three assists apiece. The Tanagers made 17 of 47 shots for 38 percent.
For Dakota Valley Lupkes finished with 24 points and six steals, Brock Bergman had 14 points and Joey Feilmeier 13. The Panthers shot a warm 47 percent (25 of 53) and caused a good share of Vermillion's 25 turnovers.