Whoever said two weeks ago that the Vermillion boys basketball team was entering a tough stretch in its schedule wasn't just blowing smoke.
The Tanagers, who were 6-2 at one point, dropped to 6-6 for the year with their fourth straight loss Tuesday, and for the second time it was a defeat at the hands of a team they had beaten earlier. This time West Central, who lost at home to Vermillion 40-32 on Jan. 5, blew open a close game with a huge fourth quarter to beat the Tanagers 45-37.
The Tanagers' four-game homestand, which continued last night (Thursday) against the state's No. 1-rated Dell Rapids club, proceeds Tuesday in a girls-boys doubleheader against Beresford and concludes next Friday against Madison. The latter now becomes a must-win for the Tanagers to retain any hope for the conference championship.
Tuesday's loss at home to West Central put the Tanagers at 4-2 in the Big 8 Conference with two games remaining. For West Central it was only their second victory in 11 games.
When Tanner Anderson scored a basket to start the fourth quarter, VHS was within a point at 30-29, but by the time the Tanagers scored again with 1:47 left in the game, West Central had gone on a 12-0 run. The Trojans' zone defense killed the VHS offense and created turnovers. In the first six minutes of the final period the Tanagers were one-of-eight from the field whereas West Central had made six of eight shots.
The Tanagers had played well in the first half, but they lost a six-point lead in the first period, gave up a seven-point lead in the second and surrendered a six-point advantage in the third quarter.
"We're nowhere near the team we were a month ago," Coach Jay Drake said in his postgame interview. "As a coaching staff we have to get some things turned around."
Austin Krier with 10 points was the only Tanager double-figure scorer. Jayce Huska had three treys for a nine-point game off the bench. Tanner Anderson and J.T. Sorensen had four points each, Nick Jensen and Anthony Leber three apiece, and Tanner Settles and Nile Morecraft two each. The Tanagers shot 38 percent from the field but got off far fewer shots – and far fewer good shots – than the Trojans, who had a 50 percent shooting game.
Mitchell Brockhaus scored 13 of his 14 points in the second half. He was co-high scorer with freshman teammate David Mulbah.
Last Thursday the Tanagers lost at Sioux Falls Christian, 66-59, but VHS gave the Chargers a competitive game. A 20-point fourth quarter included a moment when the Tanagers crept to within five points before SFC won by seven.
The Tanagers outrebounded Christian, 29-15; sank seven three-point baskets to Christian's six, and were a perfect six-of-six at the free-throw line, but VHS just didn't have enough field goals. VHS shot 46 percent, making 23 of 50 attempts from the field, but Christian had a much higher percentage, making 26 of 41 for 63 percent.
Austin Krier with 17 points, six assists and six rebounds led the Tanager attack. Tanner Anderson contributed 14 points, four rebounds, two steals and an assist. Jayce Huska scored nine, Nick Jensen six, Anthony Leber five, J.T. Sorensen four, Caleb Miller two and Nile Morecraft two points. Tanner Settles had five rebounds and Sorensen four.
Christian, which won for the eighth time in 11 games, led at the quarter breaks 20-12, 36-26 and 53-39.