Vermillion played District 8A's best team to a 10-point loss a month earlier, but this time, when the stakes were much higher, it was no contest after the first quarter.
Dakota Valley won for the 16th time in 21 games and ended the Tanagers' season with a 62-38 victory in the district tournament's semifinal round at North Sioux City last Thursday. Vermillion, a team some people said prior to the season would never win a game all year, won a third of theirs instead, finishing the campaign with a 7-14 record.
Tyler Husby, the only graduating senior on the roster, led his team in scoring against the Panthers with 12 points. Austin Krier had eight and Anthony Leber seven. Tanner Settles and Tanner Anderson scored four each, Caleb Miller two and Nile Morecraft one.
Brock Bergmann with 18 points and Matt Lupkes with 16 accounted for more than half of Dakota Valley's points. Eight other men scored for the Panthers, who had beaten VHS 54-44 on Feb. 4. With the win they moved to the championship game against Beresford, which assured a new district and regional champion by ousting Elk Point-Jefferson, 72-65.
For the first 7:31 of Thursday's game the Tanagers were in business. Husby scored five points to get his team rolling, and Leber had the Tanagers' other three in the first quarter. VHS led until Eliot Bacon tied the score at 6-6, and Dakota Valley didn't get its first lead until Bergmann scored with 29 seconds left in the period.
It was 11-8 after that first quarter, but from then on the Tanagers' hole steadily grew. A 12-2 Panther run that included three-pointers by Lupkes and Brody Van Ginkel lifted Dakota Valley to a 25-12 lead. With Tanager turnovers giving the Panthers more than their share of possessions, the lead grew to 34-18 at halftime.
An 18-10 advantage in the third made it 52-28. That 24-point difference was the game's biggest lead. In the final period the Tanagers with a brief flurry cut it down to 19, but the Panthers restored their lead to 24 by game's end.
Krier had eight rebounds and three assists to lead his team in those statistical categories. As the Tanagers outrebounded Dakota Valley 32-25, Settles chimed in with six boards, Sorensen five, Husby three, Morecraft three, Anderson two, Leber two, Miller one and Nick Jensen one.
One junior starter, Morecraft, and three sophomore starters � Krier, Anderson and Settles � all return next winter for Coach Jay Drake and his staff. Caleb Miller, Nate Garrett and Mitch Ellison are other juniors who will be back along with sophomores such as J.T. Sorensen and Anthony Leber, who saw considerable playing time this season, and David Day and Thomas Walker.
Freshmen Jensen and Jayce Huska were also on the varsity roster this year. Another freshman, Jay Munger, and sophomore Bennett Lamplot were also on the JV roster and will be vying for varsity slots.
According to the SDHSAA alignments for the next two-year period, Vermillion will again be in District 8A for boys and girls basketball with Dakota Valley, Elk Point-Jefferson and Beresford. The other district in Region 4A will include Canton, Harrisburg, Tea Area and Lennox.