As Tuesday night's game wound down, it had all the earmarks of another last-minute heartbreaker for Vermillion's girls. But not this time!
The Tanagers stunned the Class "A" girls basketball world with a gutsy 41-40 win over Wagner, which was tied for third in the state in this week's poll and which had lost only twice all season.
A heroic defensive effort and a 20-6 rebounding advantage were keys to the Tanagers' eighth win against 12 losses as they ended the regular season and prepared for a week of practice leading up to the district tournament opener.
Coach Nick Mayer's girls led 11-8 after a quarter and trailed 20-19 at halftime. Third quarters have been dangerous at times this season, but on this night the Tanagers were dynamite on the boards, offsetting a cold 3-of-13 shooting spell in that period. Nevertheless five different players scored for VHS in that quarter, and the Tanagers took a 30-28 lead into the final eight minutes.
A free throw by Kelly Amundson, a layup by Val Robinson and Lexi Regnerus' fourth three-pointer of the game built the largest lead of the contest, 36-29, with 4:40 left, setting the stage for a frantic finish.
Two Tanager shots missed, but Wagner failed to conver the front end of a one-and-one chance. On their next possession the Tanagers lost the ball via a bad pass, but at the other end Beth Szymonski blocked a Red Raider shot out of bounds.
Each team missed a wild shot in the next few crazy seconds, but with 1:39 left the Tanagers failed to convert the start of a one-and-one opportunity. LaShawn Medicine Horn scored on a put-back to cut the VHS lead to 36-33.
A shot by Robinson with 1:10 left wasn't the most artistic field-goal attempt of the season, but it found the net for a 38-33 lead. At the 1:06 mark Wagner made a free throw but missed another. But the Tanagers gave them hope by missing another one-and-one chance at 0:50.
Jessa Doom made it 38-37 with a field goal with 38 seconds left. The Tanagers answered with two clutch free throws by Robinson at 0:21. Doom tied the game with a trey, 40-40, and Wagner called a timeout to plot defense with :09.9 left.
Vermillion appeared it wasn't going to get off a shot, but the ball went to Claire Jones, who drove the baseline. She was tripped with one second remaining and earned two free throws since Wagner was in the bonus situation. She missed the first but sank the second for the one-point victory.
Robinson and Regnerus both had 14 points, Jones six, Szymonki four and Amundson three. Devon Brecke, Doom and Medicine Horn each had 11 for Wagner.
Beresford 45, VHS 40
The eighth-ranked Beresford girls escaped with a 45-40 win over Vermillion on their home court Monday night, and despite another heartbreaker, the Tanagers wouldn't mind seeing the Watchdogs again next Thursday. That would happen, however, only if VHS can win its District 8A opener against Elk Point-Jefferson at Beresford Tuesday night and the No. 1 Watchdogs beat fourth-seed Dakota Valley in their postseason opener.
Bringing a 16-2 record into the game with one of those losses to Wagner, Beresford led 16-12 after a quarter in which both teams shot well. Neither did so in the second period, however. It was 21-21 at halftime after Beth Szymonski, off the bench because Kelly Amundson was in early foul difficulty, scored six straight points to knot the score.
Out-hustling and outrebounding the taller Watchdogs, the Tanagers went ahead 26-23 on free throws but were only 1-of-11 in field-goal shots in the third quarter, after which they trailed 28-27.
Vermillion led by six at 34-28 three minutes into the fourth period when Alison Klostergaard took charge. She scored six straight points to tie the game as Beresford began a 17-6 run to end the game. Two treys by Lexi Regnerus fought off the Watchdogs temporarily, and the Tanagers led 40-39 with two minutes left.
But the VHS girls were their own worst enemies in the final two minutes, committing four costly unforced turnovers that gave the game to the home team. Beresford went ahead to stay on two Allison Johnson free throws with 1:20 left, took a 43-40 lead when a Watchdog player got behind the entire VHS defense for an easy layup and added two free throws with five seconds left.
The most glaring statistic was turnovers—12 for VHS and four for Beresford. Klostergaard with 21 points, 10 in the final period, led Beresford scoring, and Taryn Twite had 11. Jessica Finch had four blocks, including one with 10 seconds left that prevented a close-range Vermillion basket that would have given the Tanagers the lead.
Regnerus had 13 for the Tanagers, 11 of them in the fourth quarter, followed by Syzmonski with seven, Amundson with six, Morgan Erickson with five, Blair Gilkyson with four and Claire Jones with three.
Harrisburg 44, VHS 34
On Friday in Harrisburg the 10th-rated Tigers improved to 15-3 for the year with a 44-34 win over the Tanager girls, who trailed 18-9 at halftime. Kelly Amundson scored 11 points for Vermillion while Lindsey Johnson had 13 points and eight rebounds and Morgan Beener 12 points for Harrisburg.
VHS 60, West Central 58
The Tanager girls began their four-games-in-six days marathon schedule with a 60-58 overtime win over West Central at Hartford last Thursday. The Trojans' Allie Macdonald, who drained a three-pointer with two seconds left in the game to force overtime, scored 18 points and had five assists for her team, which went in with an 11-4 record. But the Tanagers offset her heroics with 20 points from Lexi Regnerus and 11 from Amundson while Morgan Erickson contributed a 10-rebound effort.