Ironmen pull out last-second victory

by Tom Coombe

If the Vermilion Ironmen go on to have a banner season, they might point to their Dec. 11 game at Anoka-Ramsey as the contest that started it all.<BR><BR>Severely shorthanded by injuries, the community college basketball team went to Anoka and pulled out a 56-55 win against one of the state’s top teams.<BR><BR>Sophomore Gavin Erickson’s 15-foot jumper with three seconds left gave the Ironmen the win and a split on a tough road swing that started with a 71-55 loss at Minneapolis.<BR><BR>But VCC still managed a solid weekend - and got a gutty win - despite the absence of top scorers Aaron Overby and Jameel Koonce and guard Wendell Hairston, all injured and on the bench.<BR><BR>Erickson’s game-winning hoop and a huge performance by freshman guard Anthony Anderson, who had a game-high 34 points, eight assists and six steals - lifted Vermilion (3-4).<BR><BR>“I was really impressed,” said Vermilion Head Coach Paul McDonald. “They were 7-3, and considering the people we had out that was one of the biggest wins we’ve ever had.”<BR><BR>Neither team led by more than four points in the nip-and-tuck battle.<BR><BR>Because of the injuries and a short bench, Vermilion slowed the tempo of the game.<BR><BR>The Ironmen led 30-28 at halftime, but Anoka-Ramsey rallied and led for much of the second stanza.<BR><BR>The hosts still led by one down the stretch.<BR><BR>“Erickson ended up hitting a 15-footer off an out-of-bounds play with three seconds to go,” said McDonald. “And then they missed a desperation one at the end.”<BR><BR>Erickson added 10 points and Zach Smith finished with 10 for VCC. Shea Amic (two points) was the only other Vermilion player to score.<BR><BR>The Ironmen also tried to slow the pace against Minneapolis, but the Marauders wore them down.<BR><BR>Minneapolis led 21-20 after the first 20 minutes, and extended the lead to nine with five minutes left.<BR><BR>VCC wouldn’t get any closer.<BR><BR>Anderson had another stellar all-around night with 24 points, 11 rebounds, six steals and five assists.<BR><BR>Smith and Erickson contributed nine points apiece, and Nate Donald had five points and 10 rebounds.<BR><BR>The Ironmen stayed close despite an off-night from the field. They shot just 27 percent.<BR><BR>“We’re looking forward to our next matchup with them,” said McDonald.<BR><BR>VCC was slated to get a rematch with the Marauders over the weekend, when it competed in the Minneapolis Tournament.