Vermillion stayed unbeaten in out-of-town games in boys basketball last week, winning at West Central and Parkston on back-to-back nights.
The Tanagers survived a night of 50 percent free-throw shooting – 13 out of 26 – by sinking nine of them in the fourth quarter to pull away from West Central for a 40-32 victory. The win gave Vermillion a 4-0 record at the halfway point of the Big 8 Conference race.
A dominant 22-9 first quarter at Parkston paved the way toward a runaway 60-34 win that left Coach Jay Drake's ballclub with a 5-2 record heading into this week's road games at Bon Homme and Lennox. Next week the Tanagers will be home Tuesday against Elk Point-Jefferson and on the road next Thursday at Sioux Falls Christian.
"The big difference tonight," Drake said after the West Central win, "was that we played eight guys, and they kept battling and gave a gutsy effort."
He was pleased that his team attacked the basket, trying to get as many free-throw opportunities as possible. "We could afford to make a few more than we did," Drake added.
From a 5-4 deficit the Tanagers went on a 10-0 roll that included five points on two baskets by Austin Krier, four points from Nile Morecraft and a Caleb Miller free throw. West Central immediately answered with a 10-0 run of its own that covered 6 1/2 scoreless minutes for the Tanagers, but a Tanner Settles field goal left VHS down by only 17-16 at halftime.
West Central committed five turnovers in the first half of the third period, but the Tanagers couldn't capitalize, scoring only eight points of their own in that period to the Trojans' four. The teams exchanged baskets as the game wore on, a pair of Krier free throws with 1:21 looming large as the Tanagers went up by 36-30 at that point. West Central had only one basket the rest of the way while Nick Jensen sank three of four free-throw tries and Krier added one more to extend the final margin to eight.
Krier led the team with 19 points, Morecraft had seven, Settles five and J.T. Sorensen, Miller and Jensen three each. Vermillion's 27-21 rebounding advantage was led by six boards each by Jensen and Morecraft and four by Anthony Leber. Jayce Huska and Settles had two assists apiece.
At Parkston on Friday the Tanagers made 11 of 18 free throws, but their accuracy at the stripe wasn't nearly so crucial because the team had 22 field goals in 40 attempts, including five three-pointers.
The game turned into Vermillion's immediately as the Tanagers soared from a 3-3 tie into a 16-3 lead, a 13-0 lead during which six different men scored. Three-point shots by Settles and Huska highlighted a second period in which the Tanagers upped their lead to 35-16 at the intermission.
Sorensen had seven points during a 10-0 run late in the third period that took the score to 52-27. Jensen had six of the Tanagers' eight fourth-quarter points.
Eight different players scored, topped by Sorensen's 13, Settles' 10, and Krier's 10. Leber added seven, Huska six, Morecraft six, Jensen five and Miller three. Leading Tanager rebounding work was Morecraft with six. Settles' effort included seven assists and four steals.