The #4 Vermillion boys hosted #5 Beresford in the first region game this past Tuesday. The Beresford Watchdogs had seven seniors on their team fighting for another game in their final season, but Vermillion proved to want it more with a 67-54 victory.
It was a fast-paced and aggressive game from the tip-off, but scoring was slow. Junior Sam Ward started it off with a deep three in the fourth minute, which Beresford responded with another on their end a minute later. Sophomore Connor Saunders brought the Tanagers’ lead to five with a bucket from downtown to finish the quarter 13-8.
The quick game continued in the second quarter. Vermillion increased their lead to 11 by the end of the half, 31-20. The Tanagers were 5-for-8 from beyond the arc at this point in the game, more than doubling Beresford’s deep range percentage as they were 3-for-10.
Both teams continued to battle throughout the third. Sophomore Dillon Gestring expanded Vermillion’s lead with a buzzer-beater from the block. The Tanagers were up 50-36 with eight minutes to go.
Vermillion really added to their lead at the beginning of the fourth, but the momentum started to sway as Beresford applied the pressure. The opponents gained several possessions with steals and jump-balls, but the Tanagers persevered to keep their season going. The home team won 67-54.
“This is a really good win,” said Ward. “That team had a bunch of seniors, so they were playing for their last game. This was a really important one: survive and advance.”
Ward said the key to tonight’s win was their defense.
“We had to defend them and rebound as well as we could,” said Ward. “That was the key to this victory and every victory of the season.”
Ward had the game-high 22 points, going 4-for-8 from deep and 6-6 in free throws. Ward also had six rebounds and three steals. Saunders had 13 points, seven assists, and five rebounds. Sophomore Jakob Dobney tallied 12 points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals, and a block. Gestring had 10 points, eight rebounds, one block, and a steal on the night.
Beresford had two players score in double figures. Junior Jack Bickett had 14 points, 3-for-4 in 3-pointers. Senior Beau VanGelder had 10 points and five rebounds.
The boys will play again this Friday against #1 Tea Area. Ward is looking forward to playing the top-seed and last year’s state runner-up.
“Miracles happen,” Ward said.
The winner will advance to the SoDak 16 on Tuesday. Those winners of the SoDak 16 will advance to the state tournament in Sioux Falls in the middle of March.