An amazing second-half comeback by Vermillion's boys fell just short Tuesday night as Wagner, which led by 16 points at one time, escaped the VHS gym with a 74-71 win that wasn't theirs until Tanner Anderson's desperation three-point heave from just inside the center line fell short of sending the game into overtime.
Coach Jay Drake's Tanagers, now 6-11, after hosting defending state champ Madison last night, will finish the regular season at home against Bon Homme Monday in a game rescheduled from last month and against Canton next Friday.
The Wagner club, which Drake said before the game has one of the top three starting fives in all of Class "A" basketball, displayed that fact in the first half. The Red Raiders stormed to a 21-9 first-quarter lead and led 29-13 three minutes into the second period as they used a fast-break offense and dominating rebounding to build a comfortable margin.
But the Tanagers managed eight second-period field goals, three from J.T. Sorensen, who was starting for the second straight game; two from Tanner Settles and two from Anthony Leber. Yet Vermillion trailed by 10 at halftime.
The second half was unexpectedly entertaining, and to say Austin Krier regained his shooting touch would be an understatement. Krier had a career high in the third quarter alone, scoring 16 points in the first five minutes, and the team, which has had a quarter this season in which they didn't score any points at all, produced a staggering 32 points. Tyler Husby was just as hot as Krier, scoring 14 in the quarter, so those two men accounted for all 30 of the team's points until Husby dished a gorgeous feed to Settles under the hoop to end the period with a 57-55 Tanager lead.
The lead see-sawed in the fourth quarter, neither team cooling down much. Krier scored five more points, Settles four more and Husby's drive to the hoop tied the game at 68-68. But Vermillion could never regain the lead. A free throw and a trey by Brennan Hilzendeger made it a 72-68 Wagner lead. Then the Raiders killed 90 seconds off the clock in a single possession.
Wagner gave Vermillion chances, missing three straight free throws. Settles canned a pair from the line with 19 seconds left, and VHS was within 72-70.
The Tanagers fouled with :09.4 remaining, and Hilzendeger applied two more daggers, sinking both free throws on the 10th Tanager foul.
Wagner fouled Settles at the :05.7 mark. He made the first to cut the gap to 74-71 and appeared to miss the second intentionally. The Tanagers, needing the rebound in order to kick the ball out for a tying three-point shot, almost grabbed it, but the ball got away, and VHS had to foul. Wagner's Solomon St. Pierre could have salted away the win right there but missed two free throws with :03.1 remaining. The in-bounds pass came to Anderson, who dribbled across the center line and fired away, but his shot was just short.
Krier finished with 26 points, Settles 15, Husby 14, Sorensen 10, Leber four and Anderson two. Wagner was paced by Brett Kuca with 23, followed by Hilzendeger with 19, Solomon St. Pierre with 14 and Jack Robinson with 12.
Wagner had an unofficial 33-18 edge off the boards.
Beresford 60, VHS 45
To say the Tanagers were outmuscled by Beresford Monday night would be no exaggeration as the burly, senior-laden Watchdogs pulled away in the fourth quarter to win what appears to be a comfortable victory, 60-45.
However, Vermillion was able to give the Watchdogs a game of it for three quarters. The Tanagers were within 37-34 with a minute left in the third period, but they then went 0-for-7 from the field in the first half of the final quarter while Beresford took command, rolling to a 46-34 lead before the Tanagers finally scored. By quarter's end VHS had been outscored 21-11 as the Tanagers were 3-of-19 in field goals in the final stanza while Beresford was 8-of-13.
Early in the game Tanner Settles had Vermillion's first nine points of the night, and the Tanagers led 18-16 after a quarter. Neither team could find the range in the second period as Beresford outscored VHS 8-4 to lead 24-22 at the half. Third-quarter three-point baskets by Tanner Anderson and Tyler Husby kept the Tanagers within striking distance until the team went cold at the same moment the 'Dogs began to bark.
Beresford's Andrew Erickson ended with 16 points, 14 of them in the second half and 10 of those in the fourth quarter. Holden Cotten had 13 off the bench. For VHS Settles finished with 14, Husby 13 and Anderson 10, but nobody else had more than four. The Tanagers shot 33 percent from the field to Beresford's 48 percent.
Husby and Nile Morecraft were credited with six rebounds each and Husby with five. Austin Krier had three assists.
VHS 49, Harrisburg 43
The Tanagers began their four-games-in-seven-days stretch last Friday with a strong second half that propelled them to a 49-43 win at Harrisburg. Though leading 9-2 after a quarter, Vermillion fell behind 16-15 at halftime. However, VHS put together a 13-point third period and a 21-point fourth quarter.
The Tanagers shot 31 percent from the field, firing up a total of 54 shots. They made only three of 20 from three-point distance and 14 of 34 within the circle but won anyway. Rebounding helped in that Vermillion grabbed 38 rebounds, 23 of them off the Harrisburg backboard, while the Tigers snared 24 rebounds.
J.T. Sorensen and Husby had eight rebounds apiece, Settles seven and Krier and Anderson five apiece. Four of Settles' boards were crucial ones at the Tanagers' offensive end, including a put-back rebound and subsequent free throw in the final minute.
In scoring Anderson with 13 and Husby with 10 topped the Tanagers. Krier scored nine and Sorensen eight followed by Settles with five and Nile Morecraft with four points.