(Photo by David Lias)
Rebounding from a pair of losses to two of the state's best Class "A" teams, Vermillion's boys rolled West Central Tuesday night, 63-43, to improve to 9-3 and stay unbeaten in Big 8 Conference play with a 5-0 record.
Next up for Coach Jay Drake's Tanagers, after what promised to be a physical challenge at Dell Rapids last night (Thursday), will be a road game at Beresford Tuesday to climax a girls-boys doubleheader.
Coach Jerry Carda's Watchdogs are a young, rebuilding team that stands at 3-9 with wins over Tri-Valley, Irene-Wakonda and Marion, two losses to Dell Rapids and single defeats at the hands of Bon Homme, Harrisburg, Viborg-Hurley, Tri-Valley, Dakota Valley, and Elk Point-Jefferson. The only Beresford senior is 6'3" center Matt Wiebers, and Carda has only three juniors – 5'11" guard Kory Diefendorf, 6'3" forward/center Austin Meester and 6'0" forward Reggan Huot.
The Tanagers are fighting against a depth problem caused by injuries to Anthony Leber and Jayce Huska as well as a compact part of the schedule. Last night's Dells contest was Vermillion's fifth game in 10 days.
But once they got past a nine-turnover first quarter that ended with West Central going on a 7-0 run to take a 16-15 lead, things began to click for the Tanagers. They trailed 24-22 midway through the second stanza when Austin Krier, who turned an ankle in the early going, returned to action. He immediately scored his own field goal, then beautifully fed J.T. Sorensen for another. Krier then canned a three-pointer. Those baskets ignited the Tanager defense as well as a 13-0 offensive run that extended into the third period.
A lone West Central basket was then followed by an 11-0 run in an 18-point third period during which Tanner Anderson had 10 points, Tanner Settles five and Sorensen four.
The VHS margin reached 29 points late in the game before the Trojans cut it down against the Tanager bench.
Beautiful balance marked the VHS scoring column: Settles 12 points, Anderson 12, Nick Jensen 11, Sorensen 10, Krier nine, Carter Andre seven and Jeremiah Johnson two. Drew Maras had 10 for West Central, Brayden Swartwout eight and Cameron Stone seven.
Saturday's game at the Hanson Classic in the Mitchell Corn Palace was a game of buzzer-beaters, but the last one went to Sioux Valley for a 42-40 win over Vermillion. Krier's long bomb beat the halftime buzzer, and the Cossacks had a buzzer-beater at the end of the third period. A Spencer Hanson basket from underneath after an in-bounds pass with four seconds left provided the winning margin.
Sorensen scored 15, Krier eight, Settles six, Anderson five, Jensen four and Andre two. Sorensen led rebounders with eight. Anderson had four steals and three assists and Krier three assists.
Sioux Falls Christian's unbeaten and top-rated Chargers dealt the Tanagers a 67-52 loss here Thursday. Down 29-19 at halftime, VHS got back to within six in the second half but no closer against the talented 11-0 SFC club, which was led by Carson Long's 19 points, Jordan Baker's 16 with eight rebounds and Cody Van Holland's 13 points. Krier had 15, Andre 13, Sorensen 12, Settles five, Jensen four and Anderson three for Vermillion, which was led on the boards by Sorensen's seven and Jensen's six. Krier had six assists and Sorensen three steals.
Earlier last week the Tanagers prevailed in a close game at Elk Point-Jefferson, 47-38. The Huskies' 6-0 late run pulled them to within 41-38. The EP-J strategy was to get VHS to the free-throw line. Once they got there, the Tanagers won the game there as Anderson sank four in a row to increase the lead to a comfortable 45-38 with 33 seconds left. The defense rose to the occasion and kept EP-J without any shots to close the gap.
Settles scored 10, Krier nine, Sorensen nine, Jensen eight and Anderson eight.
The Tanagers' win over West Central kept them atop the Big 8 standings, but Madison is also still perfect in the league at 4-0. The Tanagers and Madison still have to play each other twice, the first one coming next Friday. Vermillion's other remaining league game is against Harrisburg.
Meanwhile, VHS is also in a battle with Dakota Valley for top seed and host of district tourney play. While VHS is now 9-3, Dakota Valley was 9-1 through last weekend but still has to play Sioux Falls Christian and Dell Rapids among others. Vermillion and Dakota Valley have a huge game against each other coming up on Feb. 5.