VCC secures playoff berth; Ironmen go on 34-2 run, fly past Mesabi in dramatic second half

by Tom Coombe -

Perhaps a season’s worth of hard work flashed before their eyes.
With their postseason hopes in jeopardy in the midst of a flat home performance, the Vermilion Ironmen suddenly caught fire and went on a 34-2 second-half run that secured an 87-68 community college basketball victory over Mesabi.
The win secured a berth in next weekend’s state and regional playoffs for the Ironmen, but victory seemed almost unthinkable with 11 minutes left - when Mesabi led 62-51.
Vermilion then responded with perhaps its best run of the year, with freshmen Demetrice Mitchell and Bradlee Lewis catching fire from long range.
Lewis nailed a triple that put VCC ahead to stay at 66-64, but the Ironmen were only beginning.
Vermilion electrified the home crowd with three straight possessions that ended in dunks, including one by freshman Elijah Johnson on an offensive rebound.
Freshman Cliff Lloyd turned a pair of steals into baskets while Mitchell, who had 24 of his 30 points in the second half, connected on another bomb that gave Vermilion an 81-64 lead.
It was 85-64 Vermilion, and the Ironmen had rattled off 28 straight points, before Mesabi finally ended its cold snap.
The Norsemen finished with 29 turnovers and scored only two points during the nine-minute stretch that decided the Northern Division tilt.
VCC improved to 9-4 in division play and 16-10 overall and clinched a top-four finish and playoff berth in the process.
The Ironmen need a win today against Itasca, and some help, in order to climb as high as the number-two seed out of the division for the state and regional quarterfinals, slated for Mar. 3 at Coon Rapids.
Lloyd had 20 points, seven rebounds and five steals for VCC, while Devonta Whitaker had an 11-point, 10-rebound performance.
Mitchell had 12 rebounds to go with his 30 points and Lewis sank four of VCC’s 12 three-pointers and scored 12 points in the game.
Freshman guard Denario Jackson dished out six assists.
Laurel Ladd, a Duluth East graduate, poured in a team-high 27 points for Mesabi.
• VCC’s division title chances were eliminated Feb. 17, when Rainy River held on in the second half for a 75-71 triumph at International Falls.
The Voyageurs maintained an edge on the boards, with Mike Miller and Davarius Wright combining for 21 points.
Lloyd scored 23 points for the Ironmen, while Jackson had 10 points, 12 rebounds and finished two assists shy of a triple-double.
Mitchell notched another double-double with a 14-point, 10-rebound outing and Whitaker scored eight points.
The Ironmen made only six three-point baskets.