Vermillion has a chance tonight to complete the boys basketball regular season with a winning record.
The Tanagers take their 9-9 mark to Canton for the final tune-up to the postseason, which begins Tuesday.
The C-Hawks were 4-13 heading into last weekend's play, but Coach Jay Drake is wary of them, especially after they gave West Central a strong game just a week ago and have hung with other teams in several of their losses.
Drake said it will be crucial for the Tanagers to defend against a pair of sophomore starters, 6'3" Cody Willett and 6'1" Tyler Lems, among other C-Hawks. "But if we play well, we'll have a good chance," Drake added. "Our 10-day break since our last game has given us time to heal and practice. We just have to keep improving."
Vermillion goes to Canton on a bit of a roll, having played well in two straight wins—over Harrisburg on Feb. 10 and by 53-42 at Wagner on Feb. 14.
"We played nine guys and jumped out to a nine-point lead in the first quarter," Drake said of the win over the Red Raiders. "They got back to within six points, but in the second half we pushed it out to eight or nine but could never get a comfortable margin over them."
Drake said his "bigs" stepped up on both offense and defense. The team played well defensively and enjoyed balanced scoring.
Nick Jensen led the club with 10 points, but Austin Krier had nine. Tanner Anderson, J.T. Sorensen and Nile Morecraft had eight apiece, Caleb Miller six, Jayce Huska three and Anthony Leber one.
The Tanagers led 16-8 after a quarter, 25-19 at the half and 39-32 after three.
VHS had a 35-26 rebounding advantage, paced by Sorensen's 10, Jensen's nine and Leber's six. Krier had four assists, and Sorensen and Tanner Settles had a pair of steals each.
Jack Robinson with 16 points and nine rebounds and Noah St. Pierre with 12 points and five assists led Wagner, which fell to 8-10.
District 8A play for the boys begins Thursday with a semifinal doubleheader on the home court of top-seed Dakota Valley. No. 2 Elk Point-Jefferson, which was 11-7 through last weekend, takes on No. 3 Vermillion in the first game. Then DV (16-3) goes up against No. 4 Beresford (3-16) in the nightcap.
The homestanding Panthers' three losses were to Sioux Falls Christian twice and to EP-J. They beat Beresford twice and Vermillion once, and another of their milestone wins was over the state's top "A" team, Dell Rapids.
The district championship game will be played Saturday, March 3, on the home court of the higher-seeded team.
In final Big 8 Conference standings Madison won the title with a 7-1 record, its only loss being to second-place Vermillion (5-3). Lennox was 4-4, and Harrisburg and West Central both went 2-6 in league play.