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Pin-point passing keys Fairland win

The Fairland Dragons are walking on air.

Saturday, December 18, 1999

The Fairland Dragons are walking on air. And playing on it, too.

A big third quarter earmarked by precision passing enabled the Dragons to beat the Ironton Fighting Tigers 59-51 Friday.

Fairland led 27-21 at the half, then outscored Ironton 17-8 the third quarter to take a 44-29 lead.

"The third quarter I don’t think the ball touched the floor," Fairland coach Joey Thacker said. "We passed the ball extremely well that quarter and were able to get some easy baskets."

But just when Fairland (2-1) appeared to be on its way to an easy win, Ironton came storming back and closed the gap to 49-44 with 3:07 left on a 3-pointer by Andy Brown and a layup by Jimmy Peyton.

"We expected (Ironton to make a run)," said Thacker. "But our kids did a good job of responding. They’re young and this is a good win for them."

The Dragons used a free throw by Josh Dunfee, a short jumper by Buddy Massie to get the lead to 52-44.

Michael Henry made a layup for Ironton, but Aaron Swanton sank the second of two foul shots and a layup by K. C. Jones stretched the lead to 55-46 with 1:30 to play.

Peyton’s follow-up shot got Ironton within 56-51 with 18 seconds left. Fairland iced the win as Jay Capper hit one foul shot and Dunfee a pair with six seconds left.

Ironton, 1-3, was playing without leading scorer Jason Harmon who was on a football recruiting trip to Minnesota.

The Fighting Tigers, Division IV state runners-up in football, have only had their football players since Monday. Friday’s contest meant the team has had more games (3) this week than practices (2).

"We’re playing hard, and we’re going to get a lot better. This is like preseason for us," Ironton coach Chris Barnes said.

"The biggest thing we have to guard against right now is not for our players to get down on themselves. We’re playing teams we can beat, but we’re not ready to play games. We’ve got to keep working and keep our heads up."

Capper and Massie scored 17 points each to lead Fairland. Swanton had four assists while Capper and Dunfee had seven rebounds each.

Capper was forced to sit out early in the fourth quarter when he picked up his fourth foul.

"When Jay got his fourth foul, they were able to get two or three rebounds, then they had fire in their eyes and got going," said Thacker. "But our kids need to learn how to play without Jay.

"Buddy Massie was the player who we expected him to be. He played up to his potential and created things for us. Aaron picked it up and handled the ball well, and Dunfee did a lot of different things."

Ironton was led by Henry with a game-high 19 points and he had five rebounds and three steals. Isaac Hannon scored 13 points and Peyton led Ironton with eight rebounds.

The lead exchanged hands four times the first quarter before Fairland went up 13-10 and never trailed the rest of the game.

"We’ve got to find some offense. We had open shots and a lot of good looks, we just didn’t knock the shots down," said Barnes.