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Ironhawks lock down on ‘D,’ lock up a home sweep, Douglas named player of week

by Tom Coombe

Improved defense and an inspired performance from freshman Quyavant Douglas led to the Vermilion Ironhawks’ best weekend of the young season.

The community college basketball team also made the most of its home court advantage, winning both games of a weekend homestand and resulting in player of the week honors for Douglas.

The Ironhawks downed Minnesota West 81-59 and Ridgewater 90-67, and Douglas piled up 57 points in less that 24 hours.

Douglas, the state’s leading scorer and one of its top rebounders, was named Minnesota College Athletic Conference Player of the Week as a result, and Vermilion entered a holiday break with a two-game winning streak.

While Douglas was without question Vermilion’s offensive star, the Ironhawks tightened their defense to claim the sweep.

“We were giving up 80-plus a game and we gave up 59 and 67,” said head coach Dawson Dickson. “I was very impressed with our defense this weekend. The big thing for us all weekend was we were able to get stops defensively and go into transition and score.”

That helped allow Douglas, a guard from Brooklyn Center, to shine.

“He’s been unbelievable,” said Dickson. “He’s actually  the fifth leading scorer in all of D3 JUCO right now, averaging 23.8 points per game. He’s leading the MCAC in scoring and he’s also fourth in rebounding at 7.5.”

Vermilion welcomed back former coach Dan Tharp, who is now at Minnesota West, and Tharp’s Bluejays also had three former Ironhawks in the lineup for the Dec. 8 game in Ely.

Vermilion took control right away and led 41-22 by halftime.

The Ironhawks used their defense to force 20 turnovers, and center Jeremy Leonard returned to the lineup and blocked five shots while altering many more.

Douglas scored 32 points to pace Vermilion while going 10-for-22 from the floor and snaring nine rebounds.

Vermilion’s D’Andre White added 12 points while reserves Darius Mulbah and JaBryan Smith scored nine points each.  Smith also had  nine rebounds.

Sammy Russ, who played at Vermilion a year ago, had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Minnesota West.

Saturday’s tilt followed a familiar script as the Ironhawks jumped out to a 51-31 lead by halftime and didn’t look back.

Douglas scored 25 points with 10 rebounds and six assists, and the 6-9 Leonard added 13 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots.

Mulbah continued to provide instant offense off the bench and poured in 17 points, while Elijah Wade (15) and Smith (10) also scored in double digits.

Vermilion maintained a 44-37 edge on the boards.

The Ironhawks had been inconsistent for much of the year and the home slate was by far their best stretch.

“It was a great way to end the semester,” said Dickson. “I think part of it was not having to travel as much as we have been and finally getting to play at home. I think we had the right mindset all week. It’s a crazy part of the basketball season and now we’re off until early-January.”

Vermilion will go on an extended break and the Ironhawks return to campus Jan.  2 in preparation for a Jan. 6 Northern Division opener at Northland.

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