Elk Point-Jefferson was successful on 10 of 11 second-half free-throw attempts – and 12 of 14 in the game – while Vermillion was able to make only seven of 14, and therein lies the tale of Tuesday night's 52-51 Husky win in boys basketball.
"We knew it was going to bite us eventually," Coach Jay Drake said of his club's free-throw struggles, "and tonight it did. And besides the free throws, we missed a lot of close-in baskets. We're not finishing many of our shots."
The Tanagers' record dropped to 6-4 while EP-J's leveled off at 5-5.
After going to Sioux Falls Christian last night (Thursday), the Tanager boys will be home for four straight games over the next two weeks, starting with West Central Tuesday and Dell Rapids Thursday.
To the credit of the Tanagers, who found themselves down by 49-43 with two minutes left against EP-J, they found ways to give themselves a chance to win. Austin Krier's two free throws cut the deficit to 49-45, and after a Husky turnover, Tanner Anderson's field goal with 1:05 left made it 49-47.
J.T. Sorensen made one of two free throws with 30 seconds remaining, but EP-J got one of two at 0:27 and two more at 0:09 to clinch the deal. In between, the Tanagers missed a pair of shots from the field. Krier's three-pointer at the buzzer cut the final margin to a single point.
Vermillion had rallied from an early 11-4 hole to take a 14-11 lead after one quarter as Nile Morecraft had seven first-period points and Anderson canned a trey. After a close second period, Krier swished a three-pointer in the final seconds of the half to tie the game at 25-25.
The Tanagers had a lead of as many as six in the third period, thanks to treys by Krier and Anderson, and Tanner Settles came up with a steal and subsequent layup for the second time in the game. But from a 36-35 deficit to start the final stanza, the Huskies rolled to their six-point lead, setting the stage for Vermillion's late rally that fell just short.
Brock Zeller's 18 points and Mike Wurtz's 12 led EP-J's scoring column. Krier had 16, Anderson 10, Morecraft seven, Settles five, Sorensen three, Nick Jensen three, Jayce Huska three, Anthony Leber one and Caleb Miller one for VHS.
Last Friday, exactly one month after beating Lennox 49-40 in Vermillion, the Tanagers faced what seemed like a different Oriole team on its home court, and the result was a 63-33 beatdown.
A leaky defense, numerous turnovers and only 1-of-9 field-goal shooting in the first quarter doomed the Tanagers right from the start. It was 14-6 for Lennox after a quarter and 34-14 at halftime as the Oriole defense completely stifled Vermillion at the same time the Tanagers could do little to stop the Lennox offense.
Drake compared it to the season's first loss to Tri-Valley in December. "We got down early and didn't show much fight to get back into the game. We have to get that turned around," the coach said.
The deficit reached 46-24 after three periods and grew to 30 in the final quarter. It was the 46th Lennox win over Vermillion in the past 51 games between the two rivals.
Tyler Harms had 14 points and eight rebounds, Jason Herrboldt 12 points, Dusty Javers 11 and Zach Koosman 10 for Lennox. Austin Krier, Tanner Anderson and J.T. Sorensen with six each were Vermillion's high scorers, Tanner Settles had five, Nile Morecraft four, Anthony Leber three, Nick Jensen two and Caleb Miller one.
Lennox had a 27-17 rebounding edge. The Tanagers' best in that category was Jensen's four. Anderson had three assists and two steals.
On Tuesday of last week the Tanagers were on the positive end of a similar game, destroying Bon Homme in Tyndall, 71-36. It was 16-9 after a quarter and 35-13 at halftime as Drake was able to play 13 men.
Anderson in his first game after missing the previous four contests led the team with 16 points, Krier had 13, Morecraft 12, Jensen nine, Leber seven, Miller six, Sorensen four, and Settles and Jayce Huska two each. David Day, Mitch Ellison, Ethan James and Carter Andre also got into the game.
Morecraft with seven and Sorensen and Jensen with six each led Vermillion's 30-18 rebounding edge. Settles led in assists with four.