As if the teams on the Tanagers' schedule aren't tough enough even when facing only two of them per week, the winter weather has created an even more brutal route Vermillion's boys basketball team has to travel in the next eight days.
The Tanagers will be at Harrisburg tonight (Friday) in a girls-boys doubleheader to get the four-games-in-seven-days schedule under way. On Monday they go to Beresford for another doubleheader, rescheduled from Feb. 1's postponement.
On Tuesday the Tanager teams will be right back in action, this time at home, in a doubleheader against Wagner. Finally next Thursday the Tanagers will be home in a rematch against two-time defending state champion Madison.
That will leave home games the following week against Bon Homme Feb. 21 and Canton Feb. 25 to end the regular season.
Last week Vermillion knew going in that its task at Madison would be a stiff one, but the Tanagers got off to a decent start against the Bulldogs. The score was 10-10 with two minutes left in the first quarter, but a fast 8-2 run closed out the period with a 20-12 lead for Madison.
"We may not be a great offensive team, but we can always play hard defensively," Coach Jay Drake said, "but we sometimes let our problems on offense carry over to the defensive end." Such was the case in a devastating second quarter in which Madison scored 22 points and held the Tanagers scoreless for a 42-12 halftime result.
Vermillion hung in there in the second half, nearly matching the Bulldogs in the third quarter (13-15) and in the final period (10-13), but the final margin was still 35 points at 70-35.
"We're looking for individual consistency during these days when we're making up games and missing practices," Drake said.
Madison, improving to 11-2 for the year, had four men in double-figuring scoring, including Taylor Bloom with 14, Mitch White 12, Michael Sullivan 11 and Mitch Benson 10. Austin Krier led VHS with 13 points, Tanner Anderson had nine and Tanner Settles scored four. Otherwise it was three points apiece from Tyler Husby, Nile Morecraft and Nick Jensen.
Jensen came off the bench for seven minutes and led VHS in rebounding with five. Settles had four boards and Anderson three. The Tanagers were outrebounded 29-21 and committed 20 turnovers to Madison's 11.
On Tuesday night back home the Tanagers were still within three, 34-31, of District 8A's top-seeded team, Dakota Valley, midway through the third quarter after battling the favored Panthers tooth and nail all the way. From that point on, however, the much deeper Panther club, helped along by a few inopportune Tanager turnovers which led to DV layups, sped away to a lead of as many as 18 points before settling for a 54-44 victory, their 12th in 16 games this winter.
Vermillion started quickly, leading 7-2 after baskets by Tanner Settles and Nile Morecraft and a trey from Tyler Husby. Dakota Valley answered with a 12-0 run and appeared ready to turn the game into an early rout. However, the Tanagers kept battling, trailing 19-14 after a quarter and eventually taking the lead at 22-21 in the second period. The game was tied at 24 and 26 before a pair of late three-pointers gave Dakota Valley a 32-26 intermission edge.
Both teams were cold to start the second half. After three minutes of no points, Husby and Austin Krier got field goals and Tanner Anderson a free throw, and the Tanagers were in business, down by only 34-31. But the home team began to expire at that point.
Drake said he and his team wanted Dakota Valley to know at least that a No. 1 vs. No. 4 game in the district won't necessarily be a blowout, and this game did that as the Tanagers hung tough for 2 1/2 quarters. As things stand now, the same teams would meet three weeks from now in the opening round of the district tourney.
Blake VanGinkle with 13 points and Matt Lupkes with 12 led the Panthers offensively. Husby had 12, Anderson 11, Krier six, Anthony Leber five, Settles four, J.T. Sorensen four and Morecraft two for the Tanagers, who committed 20 turnovers to DV's 10.