The #3 Vermillion girls played last Thursday, Feb. 28, at #2 Beresford for a spot in the SoDak 16. The two teams matched up the Tuesday prior in the regular season, and the Watchdogs won that contest 56-33. The second round of regions was a fight to the end as the Tanagers lost by a bucket, 53-55.

"I think outside of our locker room there weren't very high expectations for our team after everything we lost from the year before,” said head coach Jon Brooks. “Inside our locker room, I know we all knew how good we could be. Heading into regions, we knew we had a tough road to the state tournament but had a ton of confidence we could get it done. Unfortunately, we came up a little short against a really good Beresford team.”

The intensity was high in the gym last Thursday as both teams battled for another game in postseason play. Scoring was low throughout the first quarter. The Tanagers were down 7-9 entering the second.

Beresford continued with their lead as they expanded it to six in the second quarter. Vermillion entered the half behind 21-27. In the first half, Vermillion made one 3-pointer of eight attempts. Beresford made four of 14.

“We have a really tough group of girls this year,” said coach Brooks. “We knew in the first half we were getting the ball to good spots against their zone, we just need to settle down and finish shots. Our girls really stepped up and made some big shots in the second half.”

The Tanagers came out ready for the last half. They battled back and outscored Beresford by nine in the third quarter to take the lead, 40-37, going into the final eight minutes.

Vermillion kept their small lead through the fourth quarter until the final seconds. The game was tied in the final minute, and Beresford scored from the elbow with three seconds remaining. The Tanagers were not able to get a final shot off, losing to the Watchdogs 53-55. Two lead changes took place in the third and fourth quarters. In the second half, the Tanagers were 11-for-20 from the field, 6-for-12 from beyond the arc. Beresford went 9-for-27 and 1-for-3 from deep.

“I really enjoyed watching our team grow over the year,” said coach Brooks. “Both as individuals and as a team, we took great strides as the year went on. This is a credit to the girls in our program and their work ethic. We really have tough, hardworking kids, and that makes coaching so much fun.”

Sophomore Lexi Plitzuweit had the game-high with 20 points, 7-for-14 from the field and 5-for-10 in 3-pointers, along with six rebounds, four steals, and three assists. Senior Rachel Brady had 12 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block. Senior Kasey Herbster had 11 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks, assists, and steals a piece. Junior Lexi Saunders played the entire 32-minute game. She had 10 points, 2-for-4 from downtown, plus three rebounds and two assists.

The Tanagers finished their season 16-6. Plitzuweit averaged 17 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists and steals each. Herbster averaged 10.1 points per game and 6.5 rebounds. Saunders averaged 8.2 points a game and the team-high 27.1 minutes. Brady averaged 7.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.

“We only have two seniors, but both were such a huge part of our success that they will be hard to replace,” said coach Brooks. “Kasey and Rachel have both been part of two state tournament teams and have been in so many big games. They have meant so much to our junior programs and just can't thank them enough for everything they have done.”

For the Watchdogs, senior Sydney Nelson and junior Kennedy Goblirsch had 14 points each. Junior Jessica Niles had 13 points and five steals. Beresford is now ranked eighth with a 20-2 record going into the SoDak 16 and will play 9-seed McCook Central/Montrose this Thursday for a ticket to state.

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