Instead of a third consecutive heartbreaker of a defeat, Vermillion's Tanagers found enough ways to pull off a sweet 43-40 girls basketball victory at Elk Point-Jefferson last Tuesday, taking the lead in the opening moments of the fourth quarter and holding it throughout a tension-packed final period.
After allowing the home-standing Huskies to roar from 10-6 down to 23-12 ahead, some pointed comments by Coach Nick Mayer in a 30-second timeout got the Tanagers' attention. They went on a sudden 10-0 run to crawl back to within 23-22 at halftime. Kelly Amundson led the charge with seven second-quarter points.
EP-J took command again with a 6-0 run to open the third stanza, but the Tanagers went back to work. Baskets by Morgan Erickson and Blair Gilkyson, a bank shot by Lexi Regnerus and a free throw by Beth Szymonski tied the score at 29-29 at the end of the period.
When Erickson put back one of her game-high 11 rebounds to open the fourth quarter, the Tanagers had the lead they would never relinquish. Val Robinson drove the court for a layup and a 33-29 lead.
EP-J freshman Keely Bertram, who is going to be a headache-causer for years to come, returned to the game despite foul trouble and had an immediate impact. Her three-point play brought EP-J to within a point, but Erickson followed with another offensive rebound good for two, and Amundson's field goal with 3:30 left put the Tanagers up by five.
Leading by 37-34 with two minutes to play, Vermillion got a key rebound by Robinson, which led to a bank shot off the glass by Amundson with 1:45 remaining. Erickson's steal and subsequent layup made it a seemingly safe 41-34 lead with 1:29 to go.
But the Tanagers missed the front end of a one-and-one chance, and Bertram answered with a three-pointer. Robinson made one of two free throws, but another trey by Bertram saw EP-J within 42-40 with 26 seconds left.
Again the Tanagers missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving the Huskies a chance for a win. They missed a three-point shot, then a closer-in shot. With 12 seconds left, however, EP-J took its turn, missing the first shot of a potential one-and-one.
When EP-J committed its 10th team foul with 10 seconds left, Amundson missed her first free throw but made the second for a three-point lead. The Huskies' shot for a tie missed as the game ended.
The Tanagers, making seven of their nine field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter, outrebounded EP-J by 31 to 27.
Amundson and Erickson were co-high scorers with 12 points each. Robinson contributed seven points along with eight rebounds, Regnerus five points, Szymonski three and Gilkyson two.
Keely Bertram led EP-J with 18 points, and Haylee Erickson had 10 points and eight rebounds.
VHS 52, Lennox 31
Vermillion's girls weren't about to lose to Lennox for the second time in eight days, and this time they didn't leave much doubt about things.
Combining a stiff defense that restricted Lennox to seven field goals in the entire game, a free-throw percentage that professional players would die for, and a refusal to panic when the opponents started a rally, the Tanagers trailed only at 4-3. Once they took a 6-4 lead, they would never trail again.
Lennox crept to within 10-9 early in the second period, but Lexi Regnerus sank four straight free throws and Claire Jones one, followed by a strong drive to the hoop by Val Robinson. That 7-0 surge lifted the Tanagers to a comfort zone they were able to maintain for the rest of the night.
It was 19-12 at halftime, but there was no lifting the foot from the accelerator on this night. A trey by Regnerus and a three-point play by Kelly Amundson started the third quarter, and the Tanagers went on to outscore the Orioles 15-8 in the period.
One short stretch of a pair of turnovers seemed to ignite a potential Lennox comeback. The Orioles got to within 36-24 early in the final period. There was a day when this would have been panic time for the Tanagers, but on this night they simply went back to work, fought off a Lennox press and aggressively tried to score. At this particular moment, Regnerus banged home one of her three-point daggers, Morgan Erickson surged alongside the lane for a layup and Amundson sank two more free shots, and the Tanagers were home free.
Even when their shots didn't drop, the Tanagers were profiting immensely by taking it to the hole in this physical contest. The way they were shooting free throws, drawing a foul was as good as scoring a field goal. In the fourth quarter alone Vermillion connected on 11 of 12 free throws. For the game it was an amazing 20 of 22. Regnerus was a perfect six of six.
Regnerus had 15 points and Erickson 11, but six others scored, as well. Amundson had seven, Robinson five, Blair Gilkyson four, Jones four, Josie Huber four and Beth Szymonski two.
The Orioles' go-to girl, Kayla Kruse, whose rebound shot had beaten the Tanagers in Lennox 30-28, got into early foul trouble. This enabled Vermillion to pound the ball inside, forcing Lennox to either foul or let 'em cruise to the hoop. Kruse had nine points and Brianna McEntee seven to lead Lennox.
VHS 57, St. Francis 25
The Tanagers completed an all-winning three-game week with a 57-25 trouncing of St. Francis in the Dakota Valley Classic at North Sioux City Saturday afternoon.
The game was never in doubt as the Tanagers rolled to a 29-8 lead at halftime.
Lexi Regnerus scored 17 points, Kelly Amundson 11 and Val Robinson eight to lead the VHS offense. Philomene Boneshirt with seven was St. Francis' high scorer.
Vermillion concludes another three-game week tonight (Friday) at home against Canton after playing Madison and West Central on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. The girls also play next Tuesday in a girls-boys doubleheader at Beresford.