Tanagers defeat Harrisburg with balanced offense

Vermillion High boys basketball is in the midst of a 10-day break in the schedule leading up to next Friday's regular-season finale at Canton.

Tanager Nile Morecraft eludes a Harrisburg defender during last Friday’s basketball action in the VHS gym. Vermillion defeated the Tigers 42-26. (Photo by David Lias)

The Tanagers, who played at Wagner Tuesday, may find the gap in the schedule to be a blessing, according to Coach Jay Drake.  "We hope to be able to do some things in practice we wouldn't have time to do if we had two or three games each of these two weeks," he said.

Last Friday Vermillion completed its Big 8 Conference schedule with a winning record, a 42-26 domination of Harrisburg leaving the Tanagers at 5-3 in the league.  That's a one-game improvement over last year, and the Tanagers were the only team to hand conference champ Madison a defeat in Big 8 play.

Drake called the win the team's best game in a month.

While no player scored in double figures for the second straight game, nevertheless there was balance in the Tanagers' offensive figures, and the defensive effort restricted Harrisburg to two points in the third quarter and only 11 in the second half.

"We think we have things going in the right direction," Drake said.

Vermillion led by as many as ten points in the first quarter, and its advantage swelled to as many as 12 twice in the second period, including at the final buzzer when Anthony Leber drained a three-pointer for a 27-15 lead at the intermission.

Field goals by J.T. Sorensen, Tanner Anderson, Leber and Austin Krier in the third stanza while the Tigers were scoring only one basket left VHS with a comfortable 35-17 heading into the final period when Harrisburg could get no closer than 12 points.

Eight players scored for VHS—Leber nine, Anderson eight, Sorensen eight, Krier five, Caleb Miller four, Nile Morecraft four, Nick Jensen two and Tanner Settles two.  Of the Tanagers' 26 rebounds, Leber had five; Morecraft, Miller and Sorensen four each.  Anderson led in assists with four.

Vermillion had a 44 percent shooting night, making 18 of 41 attempts from the field, while Harrisburg was a cool 23 percent on a 9-of-39 night.

Linden Niewenhuis led the Tigers with nine, but no one else had more than six points.

Earlier last week Dakota Valley pulled away from VHS with a 20-10 fourth-quarter advantage to win in North Sioux City, 55-39.  For the Panthers it was a 13th win in 16 games and solidified their hold as the top seed for the upcoming district tournament.

Dakota Valley, canning five three-pointers in the first period, established the kind of game they wanted in the first quarter.  The Tanagers held the Panthers reasonably in check in the two middle periods, but in the final quarter a sudden outburst when they scored a three-pointer and a three-point play led to the Panthers opening up the game and pulling away.

Perhaps an omen of what kind of night it was going to be was the fact that a fire alarm during pregame warmups sent everybody out into the winter night for an unexpected, unwanted dose of fresh air.

Krier and Sorensen topped VHS scoring with nine points each.  Leber had five, Settles and Jensen four each, Jayce Huske and Morecraft three apiece and Miller two.  The Tanagers were 3-of-16 from behind the arc while the Panthers were 8-of-15.  Sorensen had 12 of Vermillion's 25 rebounds.  He and Anderson had a pair of assists each.

The final boys Big 8 standings showed Madison at 7-1, Vermillion second at 5-3, Lennox at 4-4, and West Central and Harrisburg at 2-6.

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