The #4 Tanagers played last Friday, March 1, at the top-seed, Tea Area. The two teams matched up at the end of December, and the Tanagers fell 40-76. Vermillion battled the tough competition once more but fell 60-86 to the Titans.
The Tanagers put out a fight from the beginning of the game. There were five lead changes, all from the first half of the game. The first quarter ended with the Tanagers down by seven, 18-25.
Tea Area increased their lead slowly throughout the second quarter. With two quarters remaining, the Tanagers were down 31-43. Vermillion shot 1-for-8 in 3-pointers while Tea Area was 5-for-14.
Vermillion’s opponents continued their high scoring affair as they tried to stick with them, but Tea Area did not give the Tanagers the opportunity. Vermillion was down by 19 at the end of the third quarter, 49-68.
The lead continued to increase for Tea Area, solidifying their win and a spot in the SoDak 16. The Tanagers fell 60-86 to the top contenders for a state title.
Vermillion’s head coach is proud of the team’s performance this season.
"Our athletes have done a nice job of working hard and are very coachable kids,” said head coach Jay Drake. “All three levels at the high school did a nice job this year. We feel they represented our boys’ basketball program, our school, and our community in a very positive way."
Junior Max Mayer had the team-high 21 points, 10-for-21 from the field. Sophomore Jakob Dobney had 12 points and was one rebound short of a double-double. Sophomores Dillon Gestring had eight points and Connor Saunders had six. Junior Sam Ward had seven points.
Mayer averaged 13 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Dobney averaged 11.1 points per game, 5.2 rebounds, 2.3 steals, and 2.1 assists. Ward averaged 9.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. Ward also had a 77.1 free throw percentage, the team-high. Gestring averaged 7.9 points per game and made 44.4 percent of shots from the field. Saunders averaged 7.7 points and had a 45.6 percentage from the field.
The Tanagers finished their season 13-9.
"We go into every season expecting to improve as a basketball team,” said coach Drake. “We knew we had a very young and inexperienced group going into the season, and we feel that our athletes worked hard and did a nice job improving throughout the year. We felt we were a competitive group and maybe achieved more than what some people around the state would have expected of our team going into the season, which is a credit to our athletes."
For Tea Area, senior Noah Freidel had the game-high 36 points and 13 rebounds. Senior Justin Hohn had 16 points and nine rebounds. They will enter the SoDak 16 with a 21-1 record.
Opposite of Tea Area’s roster of nine seniors, Vermillion loses their one, Wyatt Loftus.
"Wyatt did a nice job this past year of working hard and displaying a positive attitude,” said coach Drake. “We appreciate the time and effort that Wyatt has given to our program the past four years, and we wish him the very best with his future."
Coach Drake expects the young team to continue to improve in the offseason by hitting the weight room and the court.
“If we can have a good off-season, we are really excited about the core nucleus that we will have coming back for the 2019-20 basketball season," said coach Drake as many young players will return with this year of varsity basketball under their belt.