Tanager boys within striking distance until game’s end

Austin Krier of the Vermillion Tanagers drives past a Lennox defender during Fridays basketball action in the VHS gymnasium. He led Vermillions scoring with 17 points. (Photo by David Lias)

Vermillion overcame a sluggish start to tie the game at halftime and was still within a whisker of catching Lennox with a minute to go. Nevertheless, the Orioles were able to salt away a 52-43 victory with seven free throws in the final 52 seconds Friday.

Considering the Tanagers had lost to Lennox by 30 points early in the season, it was apparent the VHS team had grown up in the intervening month, but their youthfulness and lack of size will still be problems against bigger and older teams. Such was the case against the Orioles' team of six seniors, four of them starters.

A 13-point run early in the game lifted Lennox to a 15-3 comfort zone, so Coach Darren Ellwein took out his starters. Against his top five reserves, the Tanagers went on an 11-2 surge of their own on two field goals by Austin Krier, one each by Tyler Husby and Tanner Anderson and a three-pointer by Anthony Leber.

When the Lennox starters returned for the second quarter, they cooled off at both ends of the floor. The only Oriole points of the period came right at the start on a pair of quick buckets by Dusty Javers, then they went scoreless for the final six minutes of the half, and the Tanagers began to get defensive rebounds unlike in the opening period when they never got their hands on the ball. A trey by Krier and a Sorensen on a sensational feed from Krier tied the game at 21-21 at halftime.

We really battled back into the game, said Coach Jay Drake. J.T. (Sorensen) and Anthony energized us in the last half of the first quarter and into the second.

The game was lost at the start of the third quarter when Lennox scored the first 12 points, nine of them coming on three treys, two by Javers and one by Levi Weischedel. The only VHS points of the quarter came with 1:07 left on a three-point play by Anderson.

Two free shots each by Krier and Sorensen and a three-pointer by Husby gave the Tanagers hope. But they still trailed by 41-31 with three minutes left.

We tell our team that, if we can be within striking distance going into the fourth quarter, we have a chance, Drake said, and we were.

Andersons steal in the Lennox offensive zone led to a Leber basket. Then Husby stole the ball and drove for a basket to make it 41-35 with 2:37 left. The Oriole player who had been stripped of the ball chose that moment to show his frustration, slamming the ball to the floor on its way to the referee. The technical foul led to two Krier free throws, and it was 41-37. On their ensuing possession, however, the Tanagers couldn't score, and Lennox did at the other end.

There was no defending Vermillion at the free-throw line, and Krier made both ends of a one-and-one with 1:35 left. Husby rebounded a missed Lennox free throw, setting the stage for an official's call that had a good deal to do with deciding the game. Krier drove to the hoop, scored and was fouled. The score could have been 43-41 with a free throw coming, but instead it was ruled an offensive charge. And that was that.

Lennox added seven late free throws, interspersed with a pair of Krier baskets, to win by what appears to be a comfortable nine-point margin.

A positive statistic from the game was that the Tanagers outrebounded Lennox by three after facing a huge disadvantage in that statistic when the teams played in December. Vermillion had 26 rebounds, 23 of them off the defensive boards, and Lennox had 23 rebounds. Sorensen led the Tanagers in that statistic with nine. Husby had six and Leber five.

Krier led Vermillions scoring with 17 points, including a perfect 6-of-6 at the line, and dished three assists as well. Husby contributed 11. Anderson and Leber each scored five, Sorensen four and Nile Morecraft one. Anderson had four assists.

Javers had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Lennox, and Weischedel added 10 points.

After playing Elk Point-Jefferson and Sioux Falls Christian this past week, the Tanagers face a daunting two weeks on the road at West Central and at Dell Rapids next Tuesday and Thursday, respectively, and at Beresford and Madison the following week.

We know weve run into the strongest teams on our schedule right now, Drake said. We have to overcome that uncertainty we have that we can pull off a win when we're close late in the game.

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