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Late turnovers doom Ironton’s chances

ATHENS – If this game had been 28 minutes long, the Ironton Fighting Tigers just might be sectional champions with a major upset.

Sunday, February 25, 2001

ATHENS – If this game had been 28 minutes long, the Ironton Fighting Tigers just might be sectional champions with a major upset.

But the game is 32 minutes long and those extra four minutes proved to be the difference as nine fourth quarter Ironton turnovers enabled the 14th-ranked Belpre Eagles pulled away late and beat the Fighting Tigers 63-41 in the Division III sectional finals.

"Our game was working perfect until the last four minutes, then the wheels just fell off," Ironton coach Chris Barnes said. "That one spurt was the big thing. We turned the ball over four straight times and that killed us. I’d like to have that one spurt back. We played right with them for three and one-half quarters."

Josh Sands topped Ironton with 14 points. Josh Harmon had eight points and Chris Haney grabbed seven rebounds. Drew Mains, coming off a two-game layoff due to a sprained ankle, had four assists.

Nick Morey scored 29 points – 21 the second half – to lead the Eagles, now 19-3. Aaron Nolan and Jason Eakle added 11 each.

Leading scorer Pat Klein had just six points, all coming in the final 2:45 of the game. Second leading scorer Kyle Holbert had five points including a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

"Our goal coming in was don’t let their guards score. Going into the fourth quarter they don’t have a point. But you can’t stop all three. The Morey kid basically was just jumping over us," said Barnes.

Belpre led by as many as seven the first quarter only to see Ironton battled back and tie the score at 12-12 on a 3-pointer by Andy Brown at the buzzer.

Brown’s second 3-pointer with 7:02 left in the half gave Ironton its only lead of the night at 15-14. The Eagles came back to take a 26-19 lead only to have Sands hit a 3-pointer from halfcourt as the half ended to make it 26-22.

The Fighting Tigers got within 34-32 with 1:58 left in the third quarter on a baseline jump by Sands. Morey followed up a missed shot with 40 seconds left and Belpre was up 36-32.

Sands hit a 3-pointer to tie the game 37-37 with 7:03 left to play. Two foul shots by Holbert put Belpre up and then Sands had a 3-pointer go in-and-out. Belpre came down after the miss and scored on two free throws by Morey.

A layup by Morey made it 43-37, but Haney’s baseline jumper cut it to 43-39 at the 4:08 mark.

That’s when Ironton began a series of crucial turnovers that sent Belpre on an 8-0 run and a 51-39 lead with 2:08 to play.

"The turnovers just killed us. We were right there and then we just started turning it over," said Harmon.

Mains answered with a layup, but Ironton would not score again.

The Fighting Tigers finished the season 12-10.

"I’m proud of these kids. We just wore out. Our three seniors carried us and we’re going to miss them.