A 9-0 run to start the second half put Vermillion's boys basketball team in comfortable position Tuesday night, coasting over Lennox by a 34-17 score at that point.
But as the Orioles crept back into contention and the Tanagers' shooting went cold for a spell, Lennox found itself within 38-34 with 3:25 left in the game. But not to worry!
Austin Krier, completing a 26-point night, drove the baseline for a crucial layup, Nile Morecraft sank a free throw at the 2:11 mark, and then the Tanagers sank eight out of eight free throws in the final minute – the first two by Tanner Anderson and then six in a row by Krier.
The end result was a 49-40 Tanager win and a 2-0 record in the Big 8 Conference to open the season.
Krier was 7-of-15 from the field and 10-of-10 at the stripe while Anderson contributed 12 points as he and Krier accounted for 38 of the team's 49. Nick Jensen had four points, Morecraft three, and Caleb Miller and J.T. Sorensen two apiece.
Sorensen and Leber had vicious rebounding nights, leading the team with six apiece while Miller picked off five and Morecraft four.
The Tanagers built a 25-17 halftime lead. To start the third quarter Anderson drove for a layup, Krier sank a jumper, Sorensen put back a rebound for two, and Krier canned a trey for the 34-17 advantage that seemed safe. But over the next eight minutes the only points VHS could muster came on a basket by Anderson and one by Morecraft when Tanner Settles found him wide open beneath the basket.
But while their points were hard to come by, the Tanagers kept the defensive pressure on the Orioles, who had to work for everything they got. Vermillion shot 33 percent from the field and made 14 of 19 free throws. Lennox had a 36-28 rebounding edge.
In the season opener at Harrisburg last Friday, a 12-point run late in the first period and extending into the second by the Tanagers broke a 13-all tie and propelled Vermillion to a blow-out win, 71-54.
Part of that 12-0 surge was a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Tanner Anderson, and the end of it was the first of four second-quarter treys by Austin Krier, part of his game-high 24 points that included five three-point baskets.
Harrisburg, down at the intermission by 44-24, made a mini-run at the Tanagers, pulling to within 13, but a quick 8-0 spurt by Vermillion quelled that rally, and the Tigers didn't have another one in them.
"We need to keep the game going up and down instead of a slowed-down, half-court game," Coach Jay Drake said, "so we have to keep this going." Harrisburg did what it could to slow things down, fouled prolifically and probably excessively and sending the Tanagers to the free-throw stripe 48 times – 22 of them in the fourth quarter alone when the game was already out of reach.
"We did a good job at getting to the line," Drake said. "We just need to make a few more of them than we did." The Tanagers sank only 26 of those 48 free-throw attempts. But they shot 50 percent from the field, including seven of 11 from behind the circle.
Anderson had 19 points along with three assists and two steals. Anthony Leber contrbuted eight points, Nile Morecraft and Tanner Settles six each, J.T. Sorensen five and Caleb Miller three along with three assists. Among Vermillion's 37-24 rebounding advantage were five boards each from Anderson, Morecraft and Leber, four each from Settles and Sorensen, and three apiece from Nick Jensen, Miller and Krier.
Alex Jacobsen led Harrisburg with 15 points.
After a contest at Madison last night (Thursday), the Tanager boys will be at home Tuesday in a girls-boys doubleheader against Tri-Valley.