The Blue Streaks (2-3) rallied from an early 11-point deficit to take an 8-point lead into the final 1:20 of the game. Vermilion almost made a miraculous comeback, but Sandusky held on for a 64-61 victory.
Cordney Strickland's dunk to finish off a fast break at the 1:20 mark seemed to be the exclamation point to Sandusky's huge second-half turnaround. However, trailing 62-54, the Sailors (4-2) had other tricks up their sleeve.
Madison Montgomery buried a 3-pointer on Vermilion's ensuing possession, and Mitch Novak stole Sandusky inbounds pass and promptly laid it in for a five-point spurt in 2 seconds, cutting the Streaks' lead to just three with 47.4 seconds remaining.
Then, to add more drama to the proceedings, both Delon Roldan-Johnson and Xavier Turner -- Sandusky's two leading scorers with 18 and 19 points, respectively -- each missed the front-end of a 1-and-1, and reserve Jordan Gillespie converted a layup off the second miss to make it a 62-61 game with 23 seconds remaining.
"For some reason, we were sitting back in the beginning of the fourth, I don't know why," Vermilion coach Kurt Habermehl said. "We weren't telling the kids to play off, but we were sitting back and letting them do what they wanted to do offensively, and (Sandusky) was making shots.
"Once we got our energy back, we did a pretty good job of making them work a little bit."
The third time that Sandusky reached the foul line, however, proved to be its charm. Roldan-Johnson sank both free throws to make it a 3-point game with just 19.8 seconds remaining.
Vermilion had a couple more chances to give the Classic two overtime games in the first day, though.
Cory Fox, who had 12 points and two big 3-pointers already, missed a 3-pointer, and Gillespie, who got the ball back on a rebound from Novak, missed another potential game-tying trey. Strickland was able to corral the loose ball as the buzzer sounded, giving his Streaks the hard-fought game.
"Let's give Vermilion credit," Sandusky coach Steve Keller said. "They took some shots that were difficult shots, but they knocked them down to keep things close.
"We didn't execute as well as we would have liked (down the stretch), but at the same time, I was pleased with how we responded. We could have folded the tent in, but we didn't. We finished the job, and I'm really thankful. The Good Lord blessed us tonight."
Sandusky's fortunes began to turn with a 16-9 run to end the first half, which cut Vermilion's lead to 32-28 at halftime. Then, Roldan-Johnson - who had only two points off the bench in the first half - scored 10 of Sandusky's first 12 points of the second half, keying a 12-6 run which gave the Streaks their first lead of the game, 40-38.
Sandusky outscored Vermilion, 24-18, in the third quarter to take a 52-50 lead into the final eight minutes of the game.
"A lot of our stuff depends on how well we shoot the ball, and I thought we opened the game shooting the ball really well," Habermehl said. "Early on, we handled their pressure pretty well and we were attacking the basket.
"As long as we're going to the basket and then getting our kick-outs for 3-pointers, we're OK. But, if we just stand there and shoot the ball, we're not very good."
In a slow-paced fourth quarter, the Streaks controlled most of the action, getting off a 10-4 run over the first six-and-a-half minutes of the fourth quarter to take their largest lead of the night, eight points.
Vermilion didn't score a field goal in the fourth quarter until there was 2:02 remaining and had been held to just two free throws prior to that bucket. The Sailors committed five turnovers during that span.
"We've just got to stop making turnovers at crucial times," Habermehl said. "We're making too many turnovers, and they're bad turnovers. I'm not even sure if they're forced turnovers, to be honest with you. They're just bad turnovers, and we can't do that if we want to win a basketball game."
Novak led Vermilion, who plays Lorain in today's consolation game at 6 p.m., with 17 points and eight rebounds. Aaron McCann added 10 points, while freshman Cameron Kuhn came off the bench with six points and five boards.
Sandusky, which has never won the Holiday Classic, will take on Elyria at 8 p.m. in tonight's championship game.
Sandusky (2-3) was an effective 51 percent from the floor, converting 26 of its 51 attempts, while Vermilion was 22 of 56 (40 percent).
The teams were nearly identical at the foul line, with the Blue Streaks sinking 10 of 16 and Vermilion connecting on 11 of 18. The Sailors had a 36-27 rebounding advantage.
All four teams in the tournament were part of the Erie Shore Conference -- Admiral King and Southview consolidated into Lorain High School for the 2010-11 school year -- before the league disbanded in 1997.
Xavier Turner 9-1-19, Cordney Strickland 3-1-8, Tristen Jeffries 3-1-7, Devonte' Turner 0-2-2, Delon Roldan-Johnson 7-3-18, DeJour Stovall 3-2-8, Donald Williams 1-0-2. TOTALS 26-10-64.
Mitch Novak 7-3-17, Cory Fox 4-2-12, Aaron McCann 4-0-10, Madison Montgomery 2-0-6, Clay Malin 0-1-1, Jordan Gillespie 3-3-9, Cameron Kuhn 2-2-6. TOTALS 22-11-61.
Sandusky 8 20 24 12 -- 64
Vermilion 12 20 18 11 -- 61
3-pt FG: Sandusky 2-9 (Roldan-Johnson, Strickland), Vermilion 6-20 (Montgomery 2, Fox 2, McCann 2).