The 22-0 Vermillion boys’ basketball team competed in the Class A State Tournament last Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Sioux Falls at the Denny Sanford Premier Center. The 1-seed Tanagers competed in their first state tournament since 1989 and played the No. 8 Dell Rapids Quarriers in the first round. Vermillion fell 52-53 in a barnburner.
The Tanagers started the game behind as Dell Rapids made the first basket. The opponents carried the momentum to put Vermillion behind 11-19 after the first quarter. Vermillion ended the quarter with two steals to the Quarriers’ five. Senior Jakob Dobney and Dell Rapids senior Connor Rentz each had six points.
In the second quarter, Vermillion was shooting 22% from the field compared to 55% from Dell Rapids. The Quarriers nearly reached an 11-point lead, but Vermillion brought it back within six. At the half, the Tanagers were behind 24-32.
Vermillion shot 27% from the field in the first half. Dell Rapids shot 60%. The Tanagers were out-rebounded 11-18 but had 7 turnovers to Dell Rapids’ 14. Dobney and sophomore Brayden Pankonen of Dell Rapids led each team with nine points. Senior Connor Saunders had four assists at the half.
The Tanagers battled to bring the game within two with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter. Vermillion finished the third behind 36-41. Senior Dillon Gestring led the Tanagers with 10 points and seven rebounds, and Pankonen had 13 for Dell Rapids with one quarter to go. Dells was shooting 45% from beyond the arc, and Vermillion’s 27%.
The Tanagers brought the game within two while holding the Quarriers to 41 with four minutes remaining. Dell Rapids followed with a three to keep Vermillion from taking the lead. Down one, Gestring gave Vermillion their first lead of the game with less than two minutes remaining. Saunders drained a three to gain momentum for the Tanagers.
With nearly 20 seconds remaining, the game was tied at 50. It was the Quarriers’ ball, and on the inbound, Dobney stole the pass for a fast-break layup to go up 52-50. The opponents pushed the ball down the court with five seconds on the clock, and Dell Rapids junior Landon Ruesink put up a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to hand Vermillion their first loss of the season. The Tanagers fell in the first game of the state tournament 52-53.
Gestring recorded a double-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds, plus one assist. Dobney had 13 points, six assists, three steals and two rebounds. Saunders also had six assists with five points and three steals for the Tanagers.
For the Quarriers, Connor Rentz led with 13 points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal. Senior Colin Rentz tallied a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Pankonen finished with 12 points.
Vermillion went on to play St. Thomas More the following day in the consolation semifinal game.