Every basketball season has its downs as well as its ups, so after they had won three straight games two weeks ago, Vermillion High's girls had to swallow three tough losses by a grand total of eight points last week.
Coach Nick Mayer's Tanagers will be home for their next two contests, tonight (Friday) against Sergeant Bluff-Luton in a girls-only game and Tuesday against Dakota Valley in a girls-boys doubleheader.
The first of last week's three defeats came at Madison where the Tanagers trailed 29-19 after three periods but ended up losing by only 35-33. Kelly Amundson had 11 points to lead Vermillion's attack while Christa Paul was the dominant factor for Madison with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
"We had a pretty good look at a winning shot at Madison, but it wouldn't fall," Mayer said.
On Thursday night at Hartford, the Tanagers trailed 31-22 at halftime but staged another comeback attempt, only to fall short by a final score of 49-46 to West Central. Amundson had a 19-point, eight-rebound performance, complemented by 13 points and five assists from Lexi Regnerus and five assists from Blair Gilkyson. Hilary Mettler with 14 and Lexi Hofer with 12 points provided a one-two punch for the Trojans.
"West Central got some threes that widened the gap early," Mayer said, "but we came back. A three by Hofer was their big basket at the end."
Friday's home game against 10th-ranked Canton was a battle throughout. Mayer said his girls did a "decent job" of handling the C-Hawks' game-long pressure. One brief moment in the second half when two turnovers in quick succession led to Canton layups proved fatal in the end.
"We're scoring some points now, trying to work both inside and outside," Mayer said.
The Tanagers led 10-5 after a quarter and 19-15 at halftime after a Val Robinson trey beat the buzzer. But coming out after intermission, Canton scored 10 straight points to take a lead they would hold until the game's final minute and a half.
At the midway point of the fourth stanza, the Tanagers appeared out of it, down 35-28 as the clock dipped under four minutes. But an Amundson free throw and a Regnerus three-pointer set a rally in motion. A Canton turnover led to a strong drive up the lane by Amundson, and suddenly the Tanagers were within 35-34.
Amundson's heroic fourth quarter continued as she made two free throws with 2:08 left, intercepted a pass, was fouled, and sank two more free shots to give Vermillion a 38-37 lead with 1:56 remaining.
Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, and while Canton is certainly good, it was lucky on a couple of wild fourth-quarter shots that caromed high off the backboard and down through the net. One such shot came at the 1:40 mark, and Canton took a 39-38 advantage.
A costly bad pass by the Tanagers gave the ball back to Canton under the Tanager basket. On the in-bounds play the ball was knocked around and around in a wild chase that took eight full seconds off the clock before a tie-ball was called. The possession arrow favored Vermillion, but two close-in shots failed to drop, the Tanagers then had to foul, and Canton made two free throws for a three-point lead.
A desperation three-point attempt which would have tied the game at the buzzer from Robinson beyond the center line was just short, grazing the bottom of the net.
Amundson finished with 16 points, 10 of them in the second half as she aggressively led the comeback, along with five rebounds. Regnerus had eight points, Morgan Erickson five steals and five rebounds and Claire Jones three assists.
Canton was paced by Kylie Gaughenbaugh with 11 points, 13 rebounds and two assists while Jaicee Ulmer contributed 10 points, five steals and six rebounds.