The Vermillion Tanagers lost their undefeated status but showed some grit and gumption in the process at Tea Friday night.
Down and seemingly out by a 17-point spread at halftime, the Tanagers crawled and clawed back to within two points twice in the fourth quarter before falling to Tea Area, 49-41.
It was the first loss in four games for the Tanagers, who, after going to West Central last night (Thursday), will be home in a girls-boys doubleheader against Parkston tonight (Friday). Vermillion will also be home Tuesday against Bon Homme.
Tea Area, which improved to 5-1 for the season, went on a 14-4 run in the first quarter to outdistance Vermillion by 17-8 at the break. The domination continued in the second period as the Titans scored 18 points to lead at the intermission by 35-18.
Tea Area's defense strangled the Vermillion offense in the first half as the Tanagers struggled mightily to get good shots at the hoop. At the same time the Titans beat the Tanagers down the floor numerous times. At halftime the outlook was gloomy indeed.
But it was a new Tanager team in the second half. The defense stepped up big-time, and as Tanager shots started to fall, that slowed down Tea Area's running game.
A 9-0 run to start the third quarter was the impetus for the near-miracle rally. Three-point baskets by Austin Krier and Anthony Leber and a three-point play by J.T. Sorensen changed a 35-18 deficit to 35-27.
Surprisingly Sorensen and Nick Jensen would be the only Tanagers who would score for the remainder of the game. Sorensen had two more field goals in the third quarter after which Vermillion was still down by eight, 39-31.
While Tea Area could manage only a free throw, the Tanagers got a free throw from Sorensen and two field goals from Jensen. Then with 4:40 left Sorensen stole the ball and scored to cut the deficit to 40-38. After a Titan basket Sorensen fed Jensen for another field goal, and again Vermillion was down by only two at 42-40.
But in the final 3 1/2 minutes Tea's Connor Shaull scored a field goal and four late free throws while the Tanagers could muster only a free throw from Jensen at the 3:18 mark, and Vermillion could not score again.
Free-throw shooting is usually a Tanager strong point, but in this game it was costly as the team missed eight of 12 opportunities, and several of those were front ends of potential bonus situations.
Jensen had 11 points, Sorensen 10, Krier six, Leber five, Tanner Settles five and Jayce Huska four for VHS. Shaull had 14, Mitchell Nissen 14 and Riley Knutson nine for the Titans.