Bluejays ushered out of MCCC tournament
MINNEAPOLIS -- The first trip to the Minnesota Community College Conference state tournament for the Minnesota West men's basketball team ended with a second straight loss Saturday as Vermillion used a late 11-1 run to pull away for an 81-70 vict...
MINNEAPOLIS -- The first trip to the Minnesota Community College Conference state tournament for the Minnesota West men's basketball team ended with a second straight loss Saturday as Vermillion used a late 11-1 run to pull away for an 81-70 victory in the consolation bracket semifinal.
Minnesota West ends the season at 13-14.
Adam Kado, the best 3-point shooter in the conference, hit four 3s in the first half, on his way to 18 points (tied with Cornell Thomas for team-high honors). Julius Durant scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half to aid the Ironmen, picking up where Kado had left off.
Minnesota West spent most of the game battling back, falling behind as much as 13 points (28-15) with seven minutes, 42 seconds left in the half. The Bluejays rallied with a 17-6 run to get within two, 32-30, sparked by seven points from Cornelius Bardney.
Trailing by five at halftime, 37-32, Gordy Sanford delivered a 3-point play to close again within two, 37-35, before Vermillion slowly pulled away, grabbing a 56-46 lead after two three-point plays from Thomas, sandwiching a 3-pointer from Cameron Barlowe.
Minnesota West made one final push in the second half to get within 70-65, outscoring Vermillion 14-6, before the Ironmen finally pulled away for good.
Vermillion was able to use its size and athleticism to its advantage during the contest, getting a number of quality looks in the paint, including multiple dunks from Thomas.
Kado got things going for the Ironmen in the first half by hitting three 3-pointers to help build a 9-4 lead. Minnesota West's offense was sluggish in the first half, turning the ball over 11 times to counter its 40-percent shooting.
A basket by Barlowe cut the deficit to six, 21-15, midway through the first half before the Ironmen scored 11 of the next 15 points.
Vermillion also did not have a fair shooting performance in tthe first half, hitting 31 percent of its shots. What helped make up for it most was the team's 3-point shooting (4-for-15 in the half) and overall free-throw shooting (20-for-29 in the game).
Minnesota West, by comparison, shot 15 of 20 at the free-throw line.
The tournament marked the final games for five sophomores -- fellow sophomore Craig Doty, who scored four points, has one semester of eligibility left and could return next season. Bardney finished with 22 points, while Michael Riley had six points, Barlowe scored five, Jackson hit one free throw, and Lu Mendez was held scoreless.
Together, the quintet of Bluejays helped get the program back to the state tournament for the first time in head coach Justin Heckenlaible's five-year tenure -- the first overall trip for the school since 2000 -- building what the program hopes is a solid foundation for years to come.
MW 32 38 -- 70
Vermillion 37 44 -- 81
MW: Traphagen 0-1-0-2, Jackson 0-0-1-1, Doty 0-1-2-4, Barlowe 1-1-0-5, Bardney 0-7-8-22, Marrs 1-7-3-20, Sanford 1-3-1-10, Riley 0-3-0-6. Totals: 3-23-15-70.
Vermillion: Bradley 0-4-0-8, Kado 4-1-4-18, Allen 0-0-2-2, Brooks 0-1-4-6, Baker 0-0-3-3, Durant 1-6-1-16, Williams 0-2-0-4, Thomas 0-6-6-18, Jackson 0-3-0-6. Totals: 5-23-20-81.