Tanagers cling to narrow lead in fight for District 8A top seed

Vermillion's girls won two of three games last week, improving their record to 15-3 as they headed to Wagner to face the top-rated Red Raiders Tuesday night in the regular-season finale.

VHS’s Josie Huber scores two of her five points of the night as the Tanagers defeated Harrisburg 56-50 Feb. 10 in the Vermillion High School gym. (Photo by David Lias)

As this week began, the Tanagers had a narrow lead over Beresford in the fight for top seed in the District 8A Tournament, which starts with semifinal play Tuesday night.  The Watchdogs' final game was against Sioux Falls Christian last night (Thursday).  Whichever team finishes with home-court advantage will face No. 4 seed Elk Point-Jefferson while the other will get Dakota Valley in the semifinals.

The district championship game is set for next Thursday at the home court of the higher-seeded participant.

Also left to be determined this week was the Big 8 Conference championship.  A Thursday night loss to West Central last week, 47-42, cost the Tanagers a chance for an outright title.  But a 56-50 win over Harrisburg the following night left them at 6-2 for the league season.  In order for Vermillion to come out with a share of the conference title, West Central (6-1) would have had to lose to Lennox last night (Thursday).

The win over Harrisburg seemed safely certain during the first three quarters Friday, but the Tigers came up with 20 points, including four three-point baskets, in the fourth period to draw to within three points at 53-50 with 26 seconds left.  Kelly Amundson sank both ends of a one-and-one opportunity, and Beth Szymonski added one free throw for the final six-point margin.

Earlier VHS had dominated, leading 19-8 after a quarter, 33-18 at the half and 43-30 after three stanzas.  One of the evening's great sources of pleasure for Coach Nick Mayer was Blair Gilkyson's 6-of-8 night of field-goal shooting.  She finished as high scorer with 15 points.  Amundson had 13, Lexi Regnerus contributed nine, Val Robinson seven, Josie Huber and Szymonski five each, and Bailey Carlson and Mackenzie Huber two apiece.  Szymonski led rebounders with nine, and Robinson had five assists.

For Harrisburg Morgan Beaner had 14 and Brittany Blakney and Alex Johnson 11 points each.

Against West Central, who handed VHS two of its losses this year, the Tanagers were cool from the field in the first half, but a 17-7 advantage in the third lifted them into the lead by 33-28. West Central rebounded to finish strong, hitting crucial shots in the fourth period to outscore VHS 19-9 and win by five.

Amundson had 20 points and 10 rebounds while Szymonki had seven points and eight boards.

Two nights earlier at Dakota Valley the Tanagers had a comfortable lead that extended from 26-16 at halftime to 38-24 after three quarters.  However, VHS scored only four points the last 12 minutes and turned the ball over several times, giving the Panthers a chance.  They did climb to within nine, but VHS was on target from the free-throw stripe down the stretch.

Regnerus and Amundson had 10 points each, Robinson nine, Josie Huber seven, Szymonki four and Mackenzie Huber two.

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