Their favorite spot on any basketball court – the free-throw line – saved Vermillion's girls from their second defeat of the season in Lennox last Friday.
The Orioles, who had lost in Vermillion just eight days earlier, were a worthy foe this time, canning seven three-point field goals to offset the trouble they had against the Tanagers' defense inside.
But Vermillion players were able to cash in on eight of their first nine free-throw tries in the fourth quarter, nine of 12 for the entire period and 12 of 17 for the game, and the Tanagers came home with a 47-43 escape and a sparkling 10-1 record.
The Tanagers took their 5-0 record in Big 8 Conference play to West Central last night (Thursday) and go north again tonight (Friday) to Canton. They will be home to face a huge test Tuesday as part of a girls-boys doubleheader against Beresford and an equally tough challenge next Friday at Sergeant Bluff-Luton.
Lennox held leads of 14-8 after a quarter and 25-24 at halftime after the Tanagers had fought back from two seven-point deficits during the second period on the strength of a seven-point quarter from Kelly Amundson, a three-pointer by Josie Huber and a steal and layup by Blair Gilkyson to beat the buzzer.
Both teams suffered a long scoring drought in the third quarter, and VHS squandered several chances to take its first lead of the game. The game was tied at 30-30 entering the fateful final stanza.
Amundson set the tone by swishing two free-throws for Vermillion's first lead at 32-30. She sank a trey and Mackenzie Huber added a free throw for a six-point lead, but Kayla Plimpton, left uncontested twice, converted two three-point shots to tie the game again.
A trey by Beth Szymonski and an old-fashioned three-point play by Lexi Regnerus returned the lead to four, but the seventh Lennox three-pointer made it a one-point game with 2 1/2 minutes left.
Down the stretch Regnerus made both ends of a one-and-one chance, and Amundson did the same thing to make it 46-41. While the Tanagers appeared calm and collected in the pressure of the final period, Lennox committed its seventh turnover of the fourth quarter and immediately fouled. This time the Tanagers missed two free-throws, leaving the door ajar for the Orioles.
Lennox rallied to within 46-43, but Amundson saved the day by making the second of two free throws with :06.7 seconds remaining and restoring it to a two-possession game. Vermillion got a steal in the closing seconds to seal the deal.
Amundson led the Tanagers with 19 points, but six others scored – Regnerus nine, Val Robinson six, Szymonski five, Gilkyson four, Josie Huber three and Mackenzie Huber one. Tara Kuper had 17 and Plimpton 12 for Lennox.
The Tanagers shot 53 percent from the field but got off only 29 shots, but the free-throw accuracy and the fact that these girls have "grown up" basketball-wise – only one turnover in the fourth period compared to the Orioles' seven – kept Vermillion on a roll.