Vermillion's Tanager boys ring down the curtain on their regular season tonight (Friday) when Canton's C-Hawks come to the VHS gym.
VHS can finish with a record of 8-12 if tonight's game is a victory. The Tanagers will, however, still be the No. 4 seed in District 8A when postseason play commences next Thursday. Just which team will be No. 1 and thus host the Tanagers remains to be determined. Dakota Valley and Elk Point-Jefferson had identical records as of Tuesday morning, and this week's games for them will determine where the district will take place and whom the Tanagers will face first.
Coach Jay Drake said he was hoping for a third consecutive "good week" this week as his Tanagers anticipate district play. Well, so far, so good! On Monday night they took a lead at the end of the third quarter and held it through a tense final period reminiscent of tournament basketball in defeating Bon Homme, 40-37.
A Tanager defense that allowed 17 first-quarter points stiffened as the night wore on, and that as much as anything accounted for the Vermillion victory. Bon Homme managed eight points in the second quarter but only 12 in the entire second half as the Tanagers forced the visitors to take less-than-sure shots.
Another factor was a comparatively error-free game as the Tanagers, who regularly commit turnovers in double digits, were counted for only seven this time.
Vermillion trailed by as many as four through much of the initial quarter but took its first lead on Austin Krier's driving layup to start the second period. The lead seesawed back and forth till halftime, which saw the situation deadlocked at 25-25.
Bon Homme was stymied to only four points in the third quarter, but the Tanagers managed only five, so it was 30-29 heading home into the fourth after Tanner Settles' basket erased Bon Homme's last lead of the game.
Tyler Husby, who had scored four points in the first three periods, lit up the scoreboard with a pair of three-pointers, the first early in the final quarter and the other with 5:35 left, for a seven-point lead, the biggest of the game. Bon Homme answered to tie the game at 36-36 with 2:53 remaining.
Husby's jumper from the left side of the lane with 2:41 left made it 38-36, and VHS had the lead to stay, but things got shaky.
Thankfully Bon Homme missed a two free throws at 1:58, and after the Tanagers missed a field-goal try at their end, the Cavaliers missed a close-in shot at the 1:26 mark. They managed only dthe first of two free throws on that foul, and Tanner Anderson snared the rebound of the miss. Again both teams missed from the field, and this time Krier grabbed a key rebound off the defensive board.
Krier spied Settles breaking to the Tanagers' basket, fired a long pass to him and saw Settles carefully go in for the layup and a 40-37 lead.
Bon Homme, trying to feed its center, threw the ball into Tanager hands. The Cavaliers had to foul twice to get the Tanagers to the free-throw line with 27 seconds left. It proved to be good strategy because the front end of a one-and-one was missed.
But good fortune smiled on the hard-working Tanagers. Bon Homme missed two desperation shots. Krier rebounded the second. When the ball was knocked away from him, the Cavs got off yet another shot and missed, and Husby got this rebound. By this time only :00.8 remained. All it took was an in-bounds pass, and time expired.
The Tanagers' seventh of the season in 19 games was powered by 12 points from Husby, seven from Krier, six each from Settles and Anderson, four from Caleb Miller, three from Anthony Leber and two from Nile Morecraft. J.T. Sorensen, who regularly sees considerable action and who had been starting in recent contests, missed the game due to illness, so the minutes provided by Miller and Leber off the bench and their great work while on the court were valuable to the Tanager cause.
Vermillion outrebounded Bon Homme, 25-19, led by Krier's nine (eight of them at the defensive end) and followed by four each from Miller and Anderson, three each from Settles and Morecraft and two for Husby. Anderson had three steals and two assists as well.
The Cavaliers' trio of Jared Van Winkle, Ryan Heusinkveld and Ken Mesman accounted for 31 of their 37 points with 11, 10 and 10, respectively. Lance Ranek had five assists.
Last Thursday state champion Madison extended its victory total to 15 wins in 18 games with a 67-45 win over the Tanagers at the VHS gym.
Down 16-10 after a quarter and 29-22 at halftime, the Tanagers worked their deficit down to a mere four points, 31-27, but Madison ran its lead back up to 15 points. Once again Vermillion tried to rally and close to within 10 points at 42-32, but a strong run to close the third quarter provided a comfortable margin of 49-33 that the Bulldogs would never relinquish.
Twenty-two turnovers were costly to the Tanagers, who outrebounded Madison, 19-15. The Bulldogs shot well, however, getting off 50 field-goal attempts and succeeding on more than half of them, 27.
The VHS offense produced no double-figure scorers though several men were close. Tanner Anderson had nine points, Tanner Settles and Tyler Husby eight each, Anthony Leber seven, J.T. Sorensen six, Austin Krier four and Nile Morecraft three.
Sorensen had five rebounds and Anderson four. Krier led in assists with four.
Drake said it had been a good week for his club despite three losses in three games. "We saw some good things," Drake said. "We were very competitive against three strong teams." The Tanagers had faced Beresford and Wagner earlier in the week.