Vermillion's valiant seniors extended their high school basketball careers as long as they could – even into an overtime period – but when Saturday's seventh-place game at the state Class "A" tournament in Spearfish ended, the result was the same as in the two previous days.
The Tanagers fell to Clark-Willow Lake, 50-47, and had to settle for eighth place. Their final record for the season stands at 18-7 along with Big 8 Conference, District 8A and Region 4A championships.
For a program that won four games two years ago and six games last season, an 18-victory campaign is a great step forward, and nobody had more to do with that than graduating seniors Kelly Amundson, Bailey Carlson, Lexi Regnerus, Beth Szymonski and Val Robinson.
Vermillion went 4-for-15 from the field in the first quarter Saturday, but those four baskets came in succession as part of a 12-0 Tanager run toward a 12-3 lead. But Clark-Willow Lake answered with a 10-0 run of its own, eight of the points by Chynna Stevens, and the Cyclones led after a quarter, 13-12.
By halftime they were still ahead by 21-18.
The first few minutes of the second half were shaky, and it appeared the Tanagers might be in danger of a fatal third quarter for the third straight day. But they corrected things. A 7-0 run highlighted by a trey from Josie Huber and four Szymonski points tied the game at 30-30. Another three-pointer by Huber and Amundson's basket gave the Tanagers their first lead since early in the game at 35-34 heading into the fourth.
Neither team could find the hoop for three minutes. A three-pointer from Regnerus, who had all seven of Vermillion's points in the final quarter, made it 38-36. Her free throw at 3:45 made it 39-38, and another trey with 1:57 left put the Tanagers up by 42-40. But C-WL's Mackenzie Huber tied the game with a basket at the 1:30 mark.
Vermillion missed on its next possession, but C-WL obliged by missing the front end of a one-and-one situation at 0:58 to give the Tanagers a chance for the winning shot. It missed in the final second, sending the game to O.T.
In the extra period the Cyclones took a quick four-point lead while the Tanagers were missing on their first three possessions. Robinson's three-pointer at 1:21 brought VHS within 46-45. C-WL ran the clock down to 0:41 until Mindy Grensberg was fouled. She sank both ends of a clutch one-and-one opportunity for a 48-45 lead.
Robinson's layup was Vermillion's last score though the Tanagers were still within a point. Stevens was fouled with 11 seconds left, and she also hit both ends of a one-and-one for a three-point lead. Amundson's potential game-tying shot at the buzzer missed, and the season was over.
Three players – Stevens with 27, Grensberg with 10 and Mackenzie Huber with 10 – accounted for 47 of Clark-Willow Lake's 50 points. Stevens had 13 of her team's 46 rebounds. The Cyclones cleaned house on the boards, snaring 46 (35 of them at the Vermillion basket) to the Tanagers' 24.
Regnerus and Robinson led VHS with 10 points each. Szymonski and Amundson had eight apiece, Josie Huber six, Carlson three and Gilkyson two. Szymonski had six boards with Robinson, Amundson and Regnerus grabbing four each. Amundson, who was selected for the all-tournament team, had four steals, Gilkyson and Szymonski three assists each.
The Tanagers had a 27 percent shooting day, making 17 of 63. From three-point land they were eight of 27.
Miller 57, VHS 50
Second-seeded Miller used a 19-point surge in the third quarter to take command of the game and shot 73 percent from the field in the second half to pass by Vermillion, 57-50, Thursday night.
Down by nine after three quarters, the Tanagers tried to stage a rally and four times closed to within four points of the Rustlers but could get no closer.
Miller's front line of three six-footers accounted for 41 of their team's 57 points and half of their 30 rebounds.
"They pounded it inside, and we didn't have an answer for that," Coach Nick Mayer said afterward. "You have to give them credit." The coach also praised his own girls' hustle and effort.
After an early 8-3 deficit, the Tanagers came alive with style with an 18-point first quarter that included three-pointers from Beth Szymonski and Bailey Carlson and six points from Kelly Amundson. Vermillion's biggest lead came at 22-17, but five points from Val Robinson and two Mackenzie Huber free throws were the Tanagers' only second-quarter points. Nevertheless they led at halftime, 25-21, their scrappiness on defense resulting in 10 steals up to that point.
Thirteen of Miller's 19 third-quarter points came from their frontline trio. At the same time the Tanagers could manage only two Josie Huber buckets and one by Robinson, and they trailed 40-31 with one period left. Miller sank eight of 11 from the field in that fateful quarter, most of them from nearly point-blank range by their big girls.
A Carlson trey and an Amundson basket got the Tanagers to within four. Three more times in the ensuing minutes they again answered Miller baskets with two-pointers of their own.
The rally concluded midway through the fourth when the Tanagers had a chance, following a Miller offensive foul, to close the gap even more, but Miller rebounded a Tanager miss and answered with two quick baskets to go back up by eight. A Szymonski three-pointer at the 3:03 mark made it 50-45, but that was all she wrote. Miller kept possession through most of the last three minutes, and in the final seconds Vermillion had no choice but to foul. The Rustlers capitalized with five late free throws.
Alexis Watts had 20 points, Jansen Hunter 11 and Tara Parmely 10 for Miller, and Mallory Fischer had nine points and eight rebounds. Amundson scored 12, Szymonski 10, Josie Huber nine, Robinson seven, Carlson six, Blair Gilkyson two, Lexi Regnerus two and Mackenzie Huber two for VHS. Robinson and Josie Huber had three rebounds apiece, Carlson four steals and Gilkyson four assists and Amundson three.
The Tanagers shot 40 percent from the field, including 6-of-18 in three-point shooting. Miller, which improved to a 21-2 record, made only one three-pointer, but their bread and butter was inside, and that's where they went offensively most of the time, making 21 of 37 field-goal attempts for a 56 percent night.
Sisseton 49, VHS 37
Making only three of 18 field-goal attempts in an entire half against teams of the caliber of this year's state "A" field isn't going to cut the mustard, and that's what happened to the Tanagers in the consolation semifinals Friday.
The defending state champs, who had lost a gut-wrenching one-point game the previous night to Parkston on a last-second layup, won their 22nd game in 25 tries, and they started on their way to victory in the closing minutes of the first half.
The Tanagers had gotten off to a good start, rolling to a 10-point lead in the first quarter. Amundson had three field goals, Robinson two and Szymonski two, and it was 16-6. But Jordyn Kirk went on a personal 8-0 run to bring the Redmen back.
After a 16-point first period, the Tanagers settled for only seven points in the second quarter, but after a '3' and a '2' by Robinson and a basket by Szymonski, they led by seven, 23-16. But at that point momentum switched to Sisseton's side and never returned.
The Redmen broke away with two Danni Frederick treys, one just before the halftime buzzer, to go to the intermission in a 23-23 tie. But that seven-point run became a 14-0 run as the second half began. By that time it was 30-23, and the Tanagers were in trouble.
Vermillion went 0-for-7 from the field in the third, and the only VHS points were three free throws. On three straight occasions the Tanagers could make only one of two from the stripe, so unlike their free-throw shooting most of the season. Frederick canned another three-pointer to beat the buzzer to make it 33-26.
Half of the fourth quarter was gone before VHS hit a second-half field goal, one of two late threes from Josie Huber. Twice more, the Tanagers got only one of two in bonus free-throw situations. Those five misses in bonus situations proved fatal. Had the team been able to score those five points, they would have still been in the game late instead of having to start fouling intentionally.
Amundson's basket with 1:51 left brought the Tanagers to within 42-36, still with a glimmer of hope, but Sisseton cashed in with five of six from the line to salt the game away.
Kirk had 12 points and Frederick nine to lead the Redmen in scoring. They shot 38 percent for the game, making 14 field goals, only one more than Vermillion. But they sank 18 of 22 free throws, compared to the Tanagers' 7-of-13 from the stripe. VHS finished with a 33 percent shooting day on 13 of 39.
Amundson and Robinson had 11 points each, Szymonski eight, Josie Huber six and Mackenzie Huber one. Szymonski had four boards, Robinson and Amundson three each as Sisseton won the rebounding battle, 32-18. Amundson had three assists, Regnerus three steals and Robinson two steals and two assists.