BROOKINGS — Vermillion scored the first major upset of the 2017 state basketball tournament, knocking off previously-unbeaten, and No. 2-seed Hamlin 49-43 in the Class A girls tourney.
Kasey Jensen led Vermillion with 14 points, five assists, two steals and a pair of blocks, while Haleigh Melstad finished with nine points and five steals.
As a team, the Tanagers shot 32 percent from the field and hit 7 of 17 free throws. They came out firing from behind the arc in the opening half, knocking down 9 of 18 3-pointers en route to building a 13-point advantage late in the second quarter.
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“The first half we shot the ball really well,” Vermillion coach Jon Brooks said. “We knew that eventually that was probably going to cool off and that Hamlin was going to make a run. But even though they took the lead, our girls did a really good job of keeping their composure and making some big plays down the stretch.”
For Hamlin, Lexi Wadsworth notched 14 points and 14 rebounds to go with three assists.
The Chargers outrebounded Vermillion 47-22, but were ultimately undone by their 26 turnovers.
“At this level, you can’t just continue to give the ball away like that,” Hamlin coach Tim Koisti said. “You just cannot turn the ball over like that. We just continued to give them the ball. We even had chances at the end when we were ahead and had the ball, and we just kept turning it over.”
Down by four midway through the fourth quarter, a 3-pointer by Maddie Regnerus off the steal by Lexi Plitzuweit snapped a four-minute scoring drought for the seventh-seeded Tanagers and brought them to within a point at 40-39 with 3:38 remaining.
The teams exchanged empty possessions before defense led to offense again for Vermillion, with Haleigh Melstad coming up with the steal and Plitzuweit delivering the go-ahead triple.
“We said that we just had to keep getting ball-reversals,” Brooks explained. “We want to take those rhythm shots and get rid of those quick ones. We told the girls you can tell when it’s a rhythm three and when it’s a bad one. So, as long as they’re within the offense, we have to keep taking them.”
Hamlin tied the game on the ensuing possession before a miss on the front end of a one-and-one by the Tanagers allowed it to retake the lead at 43-42 with 1:19 remaining.
The Chargers had opportunities to extend their lead, but turnovers on consecutive possessions led to four straight free throws for Kasey Jensen, who made it a two-possession game with 30 seconds remaining.
“None of these girls have ever played in a state tournament before and those are some pressure free throws,” Brooks said. “Kasey made two big ones to get us a two-possession lead which was really nice.”
Three straight missed free throws left Vermillion’s lead in jeopardy, but Melstad managed to shoot 50 percent from the line over the final 10 seconds, icing the 49-43 upset.
“Obviously, it’s a lot of pressure, but I was just telling myself that I worked all year for it and that I could do it,” Melstad said. “I knew that we had the lead, but I just wanted to seal the deal.”
LENNOX FIGHTS OFF DELL RAPIDS IN DAK 12 REMATCH
After overtime was required to decide a winner in their regular-season meeting, the rematch between Lennox and Dell Rapids in Thursday’s quarterfinals was arguably the day’s most promising match-up.
It delivered on the hype, with Lennox escaping the heavyweight bout with a 63-54 win.
“That’s the way we’ve battled for years,” Lennox coach Dan Devries said. “The Dell Rapids Quarriers are tough. They’re well-coached and they’re tough.”
Madysen Vlastuin led all scorers with 22 points on 5 of 13 shooting with 11 free throws. She filled out the rest of the statsheet with 10 rebounds, two assists, four blocks and a couple of steals.
She was joined in double figures by Riley Peters who finished with 17 to go with four steals and Courtney Weeldreyer who finished with 10.
Jordan Kurse finished with just four points, but all four came at the free throw line in crucial situations.
“We went to (Vlastuin) a couple times at the end, her and Kruse, and they delivered,” Devries said.
The Orioles appeared positioned to pull away in the third quarter when a 3-pointer by Peters gave them a 43-42 advantage with 4:20 remaining.
But Dell Rapids refused to fold.
The Quarriers ripped off a 12-0 run, with Sydney Stofferahn finishing off the run with the 3-pointer that gave them a one-point lead with about two minutes left in the third.
“We told them beforehand that it was going to be a game of runs,” Devries said. “Whoever had that last run was going to win the game. We knew we were in a battle with them and our kids believed they could finish at the end.”
The two sides continued to exchange buckets in the fourth quarter, which featured four ties and a couple of lead changes.
The second and final lead change belonged to Lennox, which pulled ahead thanks to a pair of free throws from Riley Peters. A turnover by Kali Graham on the ensuing inbounds play led to a bucket for Vlastuin that pushed the lead to four, before a Vlastuin steal set up Rianna Fillipi for an additional insurance tally.
A couple of 3-pointers allowed Dell Rapids to cut it to a one-possession game on a couple of occasions in the final minute, but the Orioles managed to knock down just enough of their free throws to secure the win.
The Quarriers were led in scoring by Jayda Knuppe who hit 8 of 12 shots for 19 points. Emma Paul racked up 17 points, two assists and two blocks.
Lennox’s win sets up another Dak 12 rematch, this one against Vermillion.
The Orioles bested the Tanagers 70-59 when they collided in Vermillion on Jan. 12.
“They’re a good shooting team,” Devries said. “We need to make sure we take care of their guards. They like to penetrate and kick, so that’s something that we’ll work on tomorrow.”
WEBSTER TOPS LITTLE WOUND
With a game-high 24 points from Haley Rithmiller, No. 5 Webster downed No. 4 Little Wound 57-50 in the day’s second quarterfinal.
Rithmiller knocked down 7 of 17 shots and 10 of 17 free throws for Webster, which shot 35 percent from the field as a team. She also added 14 rebounds, three blocks and seven steals.
Olivia Breske finished with 18 points, a block and a steal, and McKenzie Voesky notched eight points.
For Little Wound, Paula Yellow Boy tallied the double-double, collecting 15 points and 12 rebounds. She also blocked four shots and had a steal. Miracle Spotted Bear and Jacynda Blacksmith both notched 10 points.
Webster advances to face top-seeded St. Thomas More, which rolled past Madison.
Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen .