Vermillion's girls made only one field goal in the fourth quarter and only four in all of the second half Tuesday night, but at the same time free-throw shooting was a piece of cake. Sinking 14 of 15 for the night, the Tanagers zoomed to a 9-1 record with a 44-38 victory over Elk Point-Jefferson.
Coach Nick Mayer's Tanagers, who beat Lennox 54-32 just last Thursday, go to Lennox for a Big 8 Conference rematch tonight (Friday). Next week the girls will be gone twice—to West Central Thursday and to Canton Friday. Their next home game is in a girls-boys doubleheader against Beresford on Jan. 31.
"They played hard and made us work hard," Mayer said after the EP-J win.
Cruising in the early going, the Tanagers led 24-11, but the Huskies closed to within 26-20 at halftime as EP-J's leading scorer, Keely Bertram, scored four late points, her first of that half, just before the intermission.
With Bertram leading the way with six more points in quick succession, EP-J closed to within 28-27. Vermillion's first field goal in more than eight minutes, a trey by Josie Huber, restored a lead the Tanagers would never relinquish. Baskets by Beth Szymonski and Val Robinson closed the quarter for a 35-29 Tanager advantage.
While VHS was missing its first six shots from the field in the final period, EP-J rallied to within 35-34, but Kelly Amundson swished a pair of gift tosses—the team was 10-of-10 up to that point—then Val Robinson's huge three-pointer with 1:50 left, the only Tanager field goal of the quarter, gave the team a comfort zone. Amundson made three of four from the line down the stretch, and Szymonski sank a pair as well.
Besides free-throw expertise, balanced scoring is also a trademark of this Tanager team, which may not have a single superstar but has several scorers. Robinson had 12 points, Amundson 10, Lexi Regnerus eight, Szymonski six, Josie Huber six and Mackenzie Huber two. Bertram and Haylee Erickson scored 10 apiece for EP-J, and Hope Erickson added eight.
Last week's win over Lennox saw the visiting Orioles score the first basket of the second half to creep to within four points at 22-18. But then a 16-0 over a five-minute stretch put the Tanagers safely out of reach. A 19-8 third period left VHS ahead by 41-24 and allowed them to cruise uncontested through the final stanza.
"Lennox got some good shots and key rebounds in the first half," Mayer said, "but in the second half our kids made adjustments and didn't let Lennox get second-chance shots."
The 16-0 surge that broke open the game included three-point daggers by Val Robinson, Lexi Regnerus and Josie Huber, three free throws by Kelly Amundson, a pair of gift tossses by Regnerus and a layup by Robinson.
Amundson finished the night with a 14-point, nine-rebound performance. Robinson and Regnerus scored 11 points each, Josie Huber eight, Beth Szymonski seven, Blair Gilkyson two along with seven assists, and Mackenzie Huber one point. Kayla Plimpton and Tara Kuper with eight each were the Orioles' high scorers.
The win gave Vermillion's girls a 4-0 record on their first run through the Big 8 Conference schedule.