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Vermillion can celebrate, the Tanagers are state champions

Tim Tushla
South Dakota Public Broadcasting

For the first time since 2007, Vermillion is celebrating a girls state basketball championship. The Tanagers won a hard fought battle against Tea Area on Saturday night in Brookings 60-54 at the Dacotah Bank Center.

Tea Area led 50-44 at the end of the third quarter in the contest, but every time it felt like the Titans were going to make a push to pull away, Vermillion would answer back. The Tanagers outscored Tea Area 16-4 in the final quarter to seal the win.

“It does feel good. I’m just so proud of our girls. We got down ten there in the first half, and got it back to four or five by halftime,” explained Vermillion head coach Jon Brooks. “We just kind of told the girls, this is what we do. We’ve come from behind a lot, especially in this state tournament, we hung in there. Man, we just have a lot of fighters.”

Senior Chandler Cleveland led the Tanagers in scoring with 20-points, and eight grader Taylor Reuvers dropped 15 more in the scoring column. In the later moments, junior Kasey Hanson hit a couple crucial three’s.

“She’s a shooter,” said Brooks. “That’s a kid who tore her ACL in the summertime, just got back about six or seven days ago, worked her tail off for this moment, and she showed up big time.”

One name that didn’t necessarily show up in the scorebook, but played a big role, was junior Brooke Jensen.

“The thing that Brooke has come so far on is everything else besides scoring,” exclaimed coach Brooks. “She defended for us really well this second half. We really need her help on defense. [Mara] Grant and [Katie] Vasecka are hard to guard one on one, and I think she did a great job on that side of the floor.”

In total, Vermillion will say goodbye to six seniors on this year’s squad. And even though they have some good talent coming back, coach Brooks mentioned the importance of this year’s senior class.

“Six great ones,” he said, getting choked up. “We see their athletic ability, but I really mean this, they’re better kids than athletes, they’re an unbelievable group.”

Vermillion entered the state tournament as the number four seeded team. They beat Mahpíya Lúta in the quarterfinals by four-points, took down top seeded Sisseton in the semi’s by three, and then won another thriller against Tea Area by six-points.

This is Vermillion’s first state girls basketball championship since 2007, and their second in program history.

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.