The Vermillion girls’ and boys’ basketball teams went on the road to play Elk Point-Jefferson last Tuesday, Jan. 15. Both Tanager teams came home with victories.

The Lady Tanagers took on a tough EPJ girls’ team who beat class A’s reigning state champs, Saint Thomas More. Vermillion won 46-43 in a close game that consisted of 16 lead changes.

“Last week’s loss really pushed us to bounce back. We knew it would be a tough fight, but we were willing and able to push through,” said junior, co-captain, and birthday girl of the night, Lexi Saunders. “When we have enough perseverance and work together, we are able to accomplish our goal, and that is just what we did.”

The girls’ game was tight from the start. Vermillion had the biggest lead of the night in the first quarter by five. EPJ’s was by three early in the first. The first quarter ended in EPJ’s favor, 10-12.

The battle continued with Vermillion taking the lead by two at the half, EPJ going up by three at the end of the third, and Vermillion fighting back to capture the win in the end, 46-43.

Saunders and sophomore Lexi Plitzuweit had 11 points each. Saunders played over 29 of the 32-minute ballgame. Plitzuweit had five assists and two steals. Senior Kasey Herbster had the game-high in rebounds with eight and leads the team with an average of 6.6 rebounds per game. Senior Rachel Brady had nine points and played over 28-minutes of the close game.

“I love the way our team really gets along. No one is afraid to score and together we lift each other up when someone makes a mistake,” said Saunders. “I am looking forward to growing as a team and fighting through many challenges together.”

For the EPJ girls, Riley Donnelly had the game-high 13 points, seven rebounds, and three steals. Lily Kempf had 12 points, 5-5 from the free-throw line, and also had three steals.

The Vermillion boys trounced EPJ in a game that did not go down-to-the-wire like the one right before, ending 63-26.

This game was the first of many in the midst of a demanding schedule. “We are in a stretch of six games in 12 days and eight games in 17 days, so it is a very critical time for our team to grow and learn from the game experiences they [will] receive,” said head coach Jay Drake in his strategy for tackling the upcoming games.

In their game one of many, the boys’ started off close with the first quarter ending 12-8 for the Tanagers. Before the first quarter ended, EPJ found themselves in some early foul trouble which put Vermillion in double bonus. Vermillion shot 13 free throws in the first half and made five, ending the half ahead 27-18.

In the second half, the Tanagers started to build a large lead as EPJ went cold despite fouls being kept to a minimum on both ends. Vermillion’s defense held them to three points being scored in the third quarter and five more in the fourth, winning 63-26.

“We have to be able to become consistent and improve as individuals across the board which will then lead to team consistency and improvement,” said coach Drake on how to stay successful with more games than practices coming up.

The sophomores led the team for Vermillion. Some include Jakob Dobney with the game-high 13 points and four steals. Dillon Gestring had 12 points and six rebounds. Noah Gilbertson captured eight rebounds and leads the team with 5.4 rebounds per game, and Hunter Lavin had the only 3-pointer for the Tanagers.

For EPJ, Miles Herrity had the team-high seven points, and Adam Grashoff had eight rebounds and four blocks.

With a hectic schedule and as coach Drake mentioned, the boys played again last Thursday (1/17) at home against Sioux Falls Christian. They had a quick turnaround as both girls and boys went to Garretson last Friday (1/18) for a doubleheader. This past Tuesday (1/22), they had another doubleheader at home against West Central before playing Dell Rapids at home this Thursday (1/24) for another with the girls.

The boys’ next game is this upcoming Saturday for the Dakota XII/NEC Clash. It will be in Madison. The girls’ next game will be next Tuesday at Beresford in a doubleheader with the boys. The girls’ varsity will play first at 6:30 p.m. with the boys’ game to follow at 8 p.m.

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