Ironmen advance to state semifinals

by Tom Coombe -

It wasn't pretty, but the Vermilion Ironmen slogged through the mud and emerged late Friday afternoon with a berth in the state semifinals.

A 15-2 run midway through the second half proved critical, and four Ironmen scored in double figures as they outlasted Riverland 82-72 in a community college basketball state tournament quarterfinal at Coon Rapids.

Vermilion, which will meet defending champion Rochester in a 2 p.m. semifinal Saturday, survived a foul-filled contest in which six players were disqualified - three from each side.

Freshman Bradlee Lewis knocked down a three-pointer that capped the game-deciding run and put the Ironmen up 62-52 with eight minutes left. From there, it was the survival of the fittest as the Ironmen never allowed Riverland to get closer than six points the rest of the way.

Vermilion (18-10) was 25-for-34 from the free throw line, with freshman guard Cliff Lloyd knocking down seven-of-eight attempts, several in the final minutes.

Freshman forward Demetrice Mitchell had 17 points and seven rebounds for the Ironmen, while freshman Denario Jackson (15) and sophomore Devonta Whitaker (13) also hit double digits before fouling out. Lewis buried a trio of three-pointers and contributed 13 points to go with 11 important rebounds.

The Ironmen went on a late run in the first half and grabbed a 39-32 lead at the break, but Riverland countered early in the second half and took a 50-47 lead on Jace Klinker's only three-pointer of the game. Riverland struggled from the outside, hitting only five-of-24 three-point baskets with Klinker going one-for-12.

Neither team shot well from the outside but Vermilion, the number-three seed out of the North, completed a season sweep over Riverland in part by forcing 23 turnovers.

Darius Bell scored 16 points to pace Riverland, which was knocked into the consolation bracket.

Vermilion moves into a battle with Rochester, which won the state title last year but scored an upset Friday as the number-four seed out of the South, ousting Northern Division champion Northland.

The other semifinal pits host Anoka-Ramsey, the nation's top-rated Division III junior college team, against Central Lakes, which pulled out a double-overtime win over St. Cloud to cap Friday's opening round.

The state title game is slated for 2 p.m. Sunday.