Ironmen dominate DQ Classi

DESPITE A HAND TO THE FACE, Vermilion guard Maurice Carter went in for a layup as the Ironmen picked up two wins in last weekend’s season-opening tournament. Photo by Eric Sherman

by Tom Coombe -

Paul McDonald found out he has some prime time players.
The longtime community college basketball head coach conceded he wasn’t sure what to expect out of the Ironmen when they opened action in last weekend’s DQ Grill and Chill Classic, but two victories showed that some of the skills his players displayed in practice are for real.
“I was pleased with some things, no doubt,” said McDonald. “You always wonder going into that first game who is going to play at 7:30. A lot of guys are able to play at 3:30 when we are practicing, but when the lights come on and the scoreboard comes on and people are hootin’ and hollering, sometimes it’s a little different.”
Vermilion, which has just two returning players, got contributions from several freshmen - most notably first-year guard Curtis Bell of St. Paul - while successfully defending its DQ Classic title.
The Ironmen were hot from the outside early in an 80-62 rout of Gogebic (Mich.), and they secured the championship with a 73-51 victory over Itasca on Saturday afternoon.
Bell had 30 points in the opening game and a 21-point, 11-rebound performance in the second, while igniting the crowd both days with some highlight-reel slam dunks.
“He had two of the better dunks I’ve seen over people in my career,” said McDonald, who is in his 29th and final season as Vermilion’s head coach. “We had good play throughout the weekend from him and he’s going to have to continue to do that.”
Bell drained five first-half three-pointer and the Ironmen nailed 11 shots from beyond the arc while opening up an 18-point lead against Gogebic.
It was 45-30 at halftime and the Samsons cooled VCC down in a slower-paced second half but never made a serious run.
Bell had 30 points, nine rebounds and four steals in his college debut while sophomore forward Devontaye Spates, the Ironmen’s only returning starter, helped the Ironmen maintain a whopping 56-36 edge on the boards.
Spates hauled down 19 rebounds, 15 on the defensive end, to go with 13 points.
“We had good contributions from Devontaye Spates,” said McDonald. “We don’t have a lot of size but he gives us a presence underneath... We also had guys like Reggie Rogers, a freshman from Minneapolis, who played well. And Joe Hess of Mount Pleasant, Iowa didn’t score much but did a lot for us on the defensive end and on the boards.”
Rogers scored 12 points and dished out eight assists in the opener, while sophomore Glenn Smith had nine points - all on three-point shot. Freshman Taray Graves of Minneapolis came off the bench and contributed eight points and nine rebounds.
Smith, also a returning player, sprained a knee in the first game, pressing freshman Maurice Carter into action on Saturday.
The freshman scored seven points and helped direct traffic in another Vermilion win,
Bell led the offense with 21 points and Rogers netted 15 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Vermilion, which led 39-22 at halftime, outrebounded the Vikings 58-34 and allowed few second shots.
Freshman David Monell, a Miami native who missed the opener with an injury, scored 14 points in a reserve role while Spates wound up with nine points and seven rebounds. Hess netted four points and six rebounds and freshman Damon Dunn had nine rebounds.
The Ironmen had 20 turnovers in both contests, an area that McDonald hopes to clean up this weekend at Ironwood, Mich., where VCC takes part in a four-team tournament hosted by Gogebic.
“We need more consistency,” said McDonald. “We had some young guys with some nerves and we turned it over more than I though we should, but that’s part of getting going. To get away with two wins is w here we want to be and now we head out on the road.”
A rematch with Gogebic opens the Ironmen’s tournament action and win or lose, they meat Division II junior college Bay (Mich.) on Sunday.
They’ll follow up Nov. 30-Dec. 1 with a weekend road trip to Fergus Falls and St. Cloud.