Ironmen steal a victory; Vermilion swipes the ball 23 times in home rout of Fond du Lac

VCC Coach Paul McDonald rallies his troops. Photo by Tara Larsen.

by Tom Coombe

Members of the Fond du Lac Thunder may have seen the hands of the Vermilion Ironmen in their sleep last Saturday night.
That’s because for the better part of 40 minutes, Vermilion hands were deflecting some passes and intercepting others or simply picking the pockets of Fond du Lac players en route to a whopping 23 steals.
Most of those came in the second half of an 84-60 community college basketball win for the Ironmen, who picked up their third victory in four Northern Division games and held their own in a crowded race for first place.
Entering the weekend, four teams had matching 3-1 records atop the eight-team circuit.
Vermilion owes its latest victory to its defense, which held the Thunder to just 27 second-half points and forced a whopping 29 turnovers in the contest.
Most of those came by way of steal, with freshman guards Denario Jackson and Cliff Lloyd doing much of the damage.
They combined for 13 steals and fueled a 16-2 run that put the game away in the second stanza.
During that run, Fond du Lac had five consecutive possessions that ended in Vermilion steals.
Jackson, who played his high school basketball at Tartan in suburban St. Paul, poured in a game-high 26 points to go with seven steals, six assists and four rebounds.
The 5-10 speedster was also proficient from the outside, sinking three-for-four three-point baskets.
Lloyd, a freshman from Chicago, was even more deadly.
He knocked down five-of-seven three-point attempts on the way to a 23-point, six-steal and four assist game.
Completing VCC’s outside trifecta was freshman Bradlee Lewis, who connected on three triples and added 17 points and seven rebounds.
Underneath, sophomore Devonta Whittaker had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while adding four steals.
Fond du Lac jumped to an early 8-0 lead and put the Ironmen in some early trouble, with Cloquet native Dillon Johnson doing much of the damage.
For awhile, VCC struggled with 6-7 center Darius Williams, but three-point shooting from Lewis, Lloyd and Jackson brought the Ironmen back.
A 12-4 run to close the half put Vermilion ahead 40-33 at the break.
The Ironmen opened a double-digit lead to start the second half and never looked back against the Thunder (2-2 division), who did not have a player score in double figures.
VCC met Northland Friday in a battle for first place and continues the road trip Saturday at Itasca.
A home tilt against Hibbing, slated for 8 p.m. Wednesday, closes out the first half of division play.