One of the best things about March basketball is that anything can happen. That statement rang true in the opening game of the 2021 South Dakota Class A Boys State Tournament in Sioux Falls on Thursday, March 18th.
The #8-seeded Dell Rapids Quarriers controlled most of the game against the #1-seeded Vermillion Tanagers. The game was tied only three times and only had four lead changes. But as expected with these two teams, the final three minutes of the game is what makes March basketball so special.
The Quarriers made the first basket of the game, but Vermillion tied the game after two made free-throws for the first tie. Dell Rapids went on to shoot 6-11 from the field and 3-4 from beyond three-point area to build a 19-11 lead by the end of the first quarter. The lead grew to as many as 11 points, 30-19, after two made free-throws by Brayden Paknonen with 2:48 in the first half. The Tanagers cut the lead back down to eight points by halftime, 32-24.
The third quarter was a grind-out, defensive battle between the two teams. Vermillion pulled within three points a couple of times in the quarter. Jake Jensen made a three-pointer with 2:13 to play to cut the Dell Rapids lead to 37-34. Dillion Gestring’s field goal with 1:32 in the quarter pulled the Tanagers within two points, 38-36, but Dell Rapids ended the quarter on a 3-0 run to push the lead back to five points, 41-36 heading into the final quarter.
Dell Rapids kept about a three-point advantage throughout much of the fourth quarter, but Vermillion took their first lead of the game after a Gestring field goal, 44-43, with 2:48 in the game. The two teams traded baskets over the next couple of minutes, and the game was tied 48-48 (1:39 to go) and 50-50 with :55 on the clock.
The Tanagers had possession of the ball with :31 to go, and after a timeout, the play went to Gestring. Gestring drove baseline straight to the hoop and was fouled on his shot attempt. Gestring missed both free-throws, and Dell Rapids secured the rebound with the game still tied 50-50. After two Quarrier timeouts, Dell Rapids tried to inbound the ball with :09 only to have the pass stolen by Jakob Dobney. Dobney sprinted to his basket and laid the ball in with :05 on the clock giving Vermillion a 52-50 advantage. Colin Rentz took the inbound pass and sprinted down the court. Colin Rentz found an open Landon Ruesink on the left wing. Ruesink, staying behind the three-point line, let got of the shot just before the buzzer, sinking the three-point shot to give the Quarriers a 53-52 victory and sending the Quarrier players to a pile on half court. This was the first loss of the season for Vermillion
Pankonen finished with 15 points, three steals and two rebounds. Connor Rentz also had 15 points along with three rebounds, and two assists. Colin Rentz had 10 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and four steals. Ruesink added seven points, three steals, and two assists. Coby Maeschen had four points and nine rebounds. Carter Nelson was a defensive force with five blocked shots in the game.
The Quarriers will take on Sioux Falls Christian in the semifinal round on Friday, March 19th. Tip-off is at 5:00 p.m.