By Parker Knox
The Big 8 Conference boys basketball championship race reaches crunch time tonight (Friday) when Vermillion and Madison, neither of whom has lost in league play, clash at Madison.
It is the first of two games between the Tanagers and the Bulldogs. The second will be at the VHS gym on Feb. 14.
As if the conference showdown isn’t big enough, another game of significance faces the Tanagers on Tuesday at home against Dakota Valley, with whom Vermillion is battling for the right to host District 8A play later this month.
First the Big 8 situation: Assuming Madison won its game over winless West Central last night (Thursday), the Bulldogs will stand 6-0 in the Big 8, and the Tanagers are 5-0. Besides its two Madison games, VHS has a conference contest at Harrisburg next Friday.
Meanwhile, so far as district seeding is concerned, Dakota Valley is 10-3 heading into a game with Elk Point-Jefferson tonight, and the Tanagers are 10-4. The top-seeded team gets to play the district tournament at the end of February on its home court.
The Panthers’ only losses have been once to Sioux City Bishop Heelan, 67-59, and twice to top-rated, unbeaten Sioux Falls Christian by scores of 88-69 and 81-49. Dakota Valley has a pair of three-point wins over Tea Area and a seven-point victory over Tri-Valley.
Otherwise, the Panthers have won their other seven games by comfortable margins.
A veteran team that went all the way to the state “A” championship game last March, Dakota Valley is paced by senior guards Blake Van Ginkel, Aaron Likness and Keegan McCabe, senior forward Andrew Reiff and junior guard Brody Van Ginkel.
Meanwhile, the Madison team, 11-1 overall, is another senior-laden ballclub. The Bulldogs, whose only loss was by two points to Castlewood on a neutral court, have pummeled all of their opponents except for a one-point win over Flandreau.
It is sure to be an interesting week ahead for the Tanagers, who Tuesday night won their 10th game of the year at Beresford by a 64-28 count.
It was 6-0 at the start and 11-3 after a quarter, and from there the Tanagers never looked back, leading 22-14 at halftime and then exploding for 26 points in a big third quarter after which they led 48-23.
Austin Krier had nine points, Tanner Anderson five and J.T. Sorensen six in Vermilion’s 20-5 run to open the second half.
Eight men scored for Vermillion, four of them in double figures, including Sorensen with 17, Krier with 12 (including three treys), Nick Jensen with 10 and Anderson with 10. Tanner Settles contributed five, and Jayce Huska, back in action after missing five games after slamming head-first into the VHS gym wall last month, also had five. Ethan James added three points and Tyler Madsen two.
Oliver Doeden led the Watchdogs, now 3-10 for the year, with 11 points.
Last Friday the Tanagers gave Dell Rapids all it could handle before falling on the Quarriers’ home court, 55-52. The game was tied at 29-29 at the intermission, and Dells led 44-42 after three periods.
Tanner Anderson had a team-high 15 points, Austin Krier 12, Carter Andre 10, J.T. Sorensen six, Nick Jensen six and Tanner Settles three. Sorensen had 10 rebounds, Krier four assists and Anderson and Krier two steals apiece.
The Tanagers made it a game partly on the strength of 50 percent three-point shooting, canning seven of 14 from long range, but making only 10 of 28 two-point shots.
Cole Langer led Dells with 14 points.