When one's shooting percentage is cooler than usual, it's up to the defense to step to the forefront. Because Vermillion's defense did just that, holding Sioux City East to one fourth-quarter point, the Tanager girls are undefeated through six games after a 37-30 triumph in Sioux City.
The VHS girls will share a doubleheader with the boys at Parkston tonight (Friday), before spending next week at home – Tuesday against Madison and Thursday against Lennox. Both of next week's contests are Big 8 Conference games, and the Tanagers already stand at 2-0 in league play.
In the case of the Parkston girls, the Tanagers will run into the state's fourth-ranked team.
At East's gym Tuesday, five Kelly Amundson points and three three-point baskets – one each by Beth Szymonski, Val Robinson and Lexi Regnerus – lifted the Tanagers from an early 4-0 disadvantage, which would prove to be their largest deficit all night long. From a 14-10 first-period lead, the Tanagers and the Black Raiders exchanged second-quarter baskets as Regnerus, Amundson, Bailey Carlson and Amundson again each scored, and each time East answered. It was 22-21 at the half.
A pair of treys in the third by East's leading scorer, Tara Schwaderer, gave her team a 29-26 lead, but two Amundson baskets righted the ship, the latter shot giving the Tanagers a 30-29 third-quarter lead, and VHS would not trail again.
Both teams missed good chances to score as the fourth quarter wore on, the Tanager defense frustrating East while the VHS girls themselves couldn't get their three-point tries to fall.
Blair Gilkyson's steal and lay-up made it 32-29. Robinson's steal led to a possession on which she was fouled for a free throw and a 33-29 advantage. The only East point of the entire period was a Schwaderer free throw.
Vermillion gained breathing room on a basket by Amundson with 2:20 left. From then on the Tanagers coolly played keep-away until East was forced to foul. Amundson's free throw at 0:52 made it 36-30, and Szymonski's free toss with 14 seconds left sealed the deal.
Amundson led the offense with 16 points. Regnerus had seven, Robinson six, Szymonski four, Carlson two and Gilkyson two.
"We didn't make as many shots as we would have liked," Coach Nick Mayer said in his post-game interview, "but the girls did a good job of working the ball around after East began to concentrate on Amundson inside. We took good care of the ball till we did get a shot."
Mayer admitted the game may not have been too spine-tingling for fans to watch as the two teams stuck to their zone defenses, "but we'll take a win on the road any time."
Last Friday the Tanagers improved to 5-0 with a convincing 60-37 win at home over Tea Area. Phenomenal success at, first of all, drawing opposition fouls and then, once at the stripe, sinking free throws was a major factor as the Tanagers made 20 of 21 attempts from the line. But Vermillion likely would have won anyway, considering their strong work on the boards and scrappy play throughout.
A 13-8 second quarter lifted the Tanagers from a 19-11 first-quarter advantage into a 32-19 halftime lead. A 9-0 run toward the end of the third period transformed an 11-point lead into a 20-point margin, and by that time the Titans were out of luck. Vermillion then had a 15-point fourth period, 11 of them from Val Robinson, in extending the lead to the final 24-point spread.
Kelly Amundson had a dynamite game of 22 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Robinson contributed 21 points, Josie Huber had eight points off the bench and Beth Szymonski seven.
Morgan Heirigs led Tea Area with 18 points and seven boards.