The Madison Bulldogs took a big step in winning the Big 8 Conference title on Friday night with a 67-46 win over the Vermillion Tanagers at the Dakota State University Fieldhouse.
Both teams entered the game with unbeaten conference records.
"This was a big win for us," said Madison Coach Michael Ricke. "We knew that we needed to defend our home court to have a legitimate shot at winning the conference title this season."
Madison has two Big 8 Conference games remaining on the schedule.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a fast start and held a 20-12 lead after one period. The Tanagers rallied back in the second quarter and closed the gap to four points, 28-24, at halftime.
"The first half was very competitive," said Ricke. "We got out to an early lead, but Vermillion was able to chip away at the lead in the second period."
Madison broke open the game in the third period by outscoring the Tanagers 28-6 and held a 56-30 heading into the final eight minutes.
"We had a tremendous third quarter. We shot 11 of 14 (79 percent) from the field in the quarter and limited Vermillion to just six points," Ricke said. "That pretty much sealed the victory for us right there."
Madison made 26 of 55 field goals, 47 percent, and hit 6-of-7 free throws, 85 percent. Vermillion made 15 of 52 field goals, 28 percent, and hit 14 of 16 free throws, 87 percent.
Madison held the edge on the boards 34-22.
Trae VandenBerg poured in 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds to pace the Bulldogs.
"Trae had a huge night for us. You could just tell he was in a zone all night," Ricke said. "The thing I was the most impressed with was how his teammates recognized that he was feeling it and really looked to get him the ball."
Jacob Giles added 10 counters and six assists. Braxton Olson scored nine points while Jesse Brown had six rebounds and five assists.
Austin Krier had 13 points to lead the Tanagers and Nick Jensen added 11 counters and six rebounds.
Madison will be on the court Monday (tonight) at the Dakota State University Fieldhouse as the Bulldogs will host #1-ranked Sioux Falls Christian. Tipoff for the varsity game is set for 7:45 p.m.