With their only senior and only junior out of action with foul trouble, Vermillion's Tanagers had to rely on their sophomore kids during an intense fourth quarter at Tea Area Tuesday night.
Those boys grew into men as they fought off panic and pressure and withstood a frantic Titan rally to bring home a scintillating 49-46 victory, the Tanagers' second of the season.
In a game in which officials' calls drove both sides absolutely crazy, the Tanagers had senior Tyler Husby and junior center Nile Morecraft fall deep into foul trouble. They had to go to the bench late in the third quarter but not before first Husby, then Austin Krier, and then Anthony Leber drilled three-point field goals in succession to lift the Tanagers from a 28-28 tie into a 37-30 lead. Then Morecraft put in a teammate's feed from close range, and Vermillion had a 39-34 advantage with a quarter to go.
Husby and Morecraft, each with four fouls, spent the first 3:20 of the final quarter on the bench for safekeeping while a quintet of super sophs—Tanner Settles, Tanner Anderson, Krier, Leber and T.J. Sorensen—handled the action on the court.
When Tea got to within 39-36, Krier scored on a soft jumper. When the Titans crawled to within 41-39, Sorensen scored.
Husby and Morecraft returned to action at the 4:41 mark, but Morecraft was called for his final foul just 28 seconds later. From that point on, it became clutch free-throw shooting time for the Tanagers. Leber was the first forced into that situation, and he came through with a perfect pair for a 45-41 lead.
After Tea rallied to within 45-43, Husby drove to a score but was called for an offensive foul—his fifth—with still 2:32 to go in the game. The sophomores would either win it or lose it. And they chose to win it.
Krier had a one-and-one chance with 2:14 left, making the first, and it was 46-43. A Titan basket at 2:00 cut the lead down to a single point again, but Settles was fouled with 1:13 on the clock. He made one of two.
An offensive foul called on Tea was offset by a 10-second backcourt violation on the Tanagers. The Titans' Alex Irvine was fouled on a drive to his hoop but made only one of two free throws with 45 seconds to go. The rebound on his missed second shot went out of bounds in Vermillion's favor.
Then it was Anderson's turn, and he sank the first of two free shots with 39 seconds left (48-46). Tea called a timeout to talk things over, but Settles upset their strategy when he stole the ball at midcourt with nine seconds left and was immediately fouled. He also made one of two free throws for a 49-46 lead. Tea Area's desperation trey attempt for a potential tie went awry, the ball caromed into the corner, the buzzer sounded, and Vermillion had a sweet and satisfying win with which to celebrate New Year's.
In the first few minutes of the game, it appeared a rout might ensue as Tea Area soared to a 10-3 lead, successfully feeding their two big men—6'4" Irvine and 6'5" Nate Walnofer—underneath. But the Tanagers righted their ship and were back into a 17-17 tie by the end of the period.
A trey by Settles, a bucket by Husby, two free throws by Leber and a rebound putback by Morecraft carried the Tanagers through the second period to a 26-25 halftime edge.
Krier started the second half with a bucket, then came the three treys in a row that put Vermillion ahead to stay, though the lead would prove to be shaky at times as the night wore on.
Krier had a team-high 12 points, Husby 10, Morecraft eight, Settles seven, Leber seven, Sorensen two, David Day two, and Anderson one. Irvine had 18 and Walnofer 12 for Tea Area.
Despite playing even with Tri-Valley through the middle two quarters of the game, Vermillion's boys varsity couldn't match the Mustangs' efficiency from the field and lost a road game last week, 62-47.
Down 12-6 after a quarter, the Tanagers kept pace with Tri-Valley in the second and third periods when the winners scored 17 in each quarter and the Tanagers had 16. But from a 46-38 deficit after three stanzas, the Mustangs were able to pull away to a comfortable 15-point win with a 15-9 fourth-quarter advantage.
Tri-Valley was warm from the field, hitting 24 of 49 for 49 percent, while VHS connected at a 39 percent clip on 16 of 41 attempts. The Mustangs had a 25-20 rebounding advantage and turned the ball over only seven times to the Tanagers' 15 miscues.
Tyler Husby's 21-point performance on 8-of-11 from the field and 2-of-2 at the stripe led the Tanagers offensively. Austin Krier had 12 points and Nile Morecraft nine, but only two others scored—Tanner Settles with three points and Caleb Miller with two.
Tri-Valley answered with a three-pronged attack, led by Kenton Welbig's 18 points and eight rebounds, Jace Eckstein's 16 points and Darren Page's 11.
Morecraft had a team-high seven rebounds for VHS while J.T. Sorensen and Settles had four apiece, Husby three and Krier two. Krier and Settles contributed five and four assists, respectively.
The Tanager boys will begin the new year with four straight home games, starting next Thursday against West Central and staying at home the following evening against Parkston.