Both Tanager teams hit the road for LeMars, Iowa, last Friday, Feb. 8. It was a tough battle for both teams. The girls fell short by a final 41-49. The boys fought to the end but lost 61-68.

The girls’ game started off close and remained so until the end. Vermillion was down by three after the first quarter, and it was kept close as they went into the half down 20-22. Neither team was going to pull away from this one easily.

Vermillion pulled it within one going into the third, but LeMars was ready for the heat of the final moments. The opponents gained their largest lead of the night by 11 with six minutes left in the game. Vermillion brought it within eight, but time ran out, and the Tanagers lost 41-49.

“LeMars has a great team. They are well coached and run their stuff very well,” said head coach Jon Brooks. “Our biggest challenge was trying to match their size. They started three girls at 6-foot-1-inch so matching up to them was difficult. I thought our girls did a pretty good job defensively, but we struggled to score on the offensive end. They were able to switch every screen so finding mismatches was tough.”

Junior Lexi Saunders had 15 points, two assists, one block and a steal. Senior Rachel Brady had 13 points and three rebounds. Sophomore Lexi Plitzuweit was a basket short of a double-double with 11 rebounds and eight points. Saunders, Brady, and Plitzuweit all played over 30 minutes of the 32-minute game. The Lady Tanagers are now 12-4 for the season.

For LeMars, junior and 6-foot-1-inch Jaelynn Dreckman had 19 points and 8 rebounds off the bench. Also 6-foot-1-inch, senior Madison Dreckman had 16 points and five assists. LeMars is on an 11-game winning streak, now 17-3.

“I really enjoy coaching this group,” said coach Brooks. “Our girls play hard and are unselfish. We play good defense and have really been rebounding better the last couple games which is key for us. If we can get balanced scoring, we should put ourselves in positions to win games down the stretch.”

In the boys’ game, the Tanagers had a tough start. Their only lead was by a bucket early on, but LeMars took control from there. The first quarter ended with Vermillion down six, but LeMars really built their lead going into the half. The Tanagers were down 29-47 with two quarters remaining.

Vermillion worked hard to bring the lead within reach by the end of the third, down 50-57. LeMars held them from bringing it any closer as both teams scored 11 more points in the fourth. The Tanagers fell to LeMars 61-68.

“Our athletes showed a lot of guts and pride to get themselves back in the game and giving ourselves a chance as we cut the lead to 57-52 with seven and a half minutes,” said head coach Jay Drake, “but in the end just couldn't get over the hump to complete the comeback."

Four Tanagers scored in double figures. Sophomore Connor Saunders had 13 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Sophomore Dillon Gestring had 12 points and five rebounds. Sophomore Jakob Dobney had 12 points, 2-2 from beyond the arc and from the line, four rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Junior Max Mayer had 12 points, four rebounds, and three assists on the night. Junior Sam Ward played all but 45 seconds of the game and tallied eight points, six rebounds, and two assists. He averages 25.7 minutes per game. Vermillion became 9-7 on the season after this game.

For LeMars, senior Alex Irwin had the game-high 30 points. Sophomore Alec Dreckman had 13 points. Aisea Toki had 12 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. LeMars is 11-9 after this victory, now winning nine of their last 11 games.

The girls will play again this Friday at home against Viborg-Hurley at 6 p.m. The boys’ next game will be the rescheduled doubleheader at Beresford next Tuesday. The girls will play at 6:30 p.m. and the boys will play at 8 p.m.

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