Upsetting performance

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 26, 2003

WAVERLY -- As the Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers warmed up in front of the Eastern Brown Lady Warriors fans, senior guard Ashley Hannon heard quite a few comments.

"They told us not to bother showing up. The game was already over. They tried getting on us pretty good, but we didn't pay attention to what they said," Hannon said.

What the Lady Tigers did was use a combination of strong rebounding, excellent foul shooting and a sticky defense to upset Eastern Brown 63-55 Tuesday in the Division III district tournament semifinals.

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The Lady Tigers dominated the boards as they held a commanding 42-24 rebounding advantage. Sara Hacker had 20 rebounds for Ironton to go along with 12 points.

As for foul shooting, Ironton converted 27 of 36 attempts. Eastern Brown was just 6 of 8, but the Warriors avoided any contact by taking an amazing 35 shots from behind the arc. They made just nine.

The defense held Warriors leading scorer Brenna Morris to 15 points, 9 in the second half. Rachel Wylie and Danielle Henderson took turns hounding Morris from the opening tip to the final horn.

"We knew going in we had a chance if we took the ball to them inside and rebounded," Ironton coach Amy Hughes said. "We were a little tight early and missed some easy shots, but once we settled down and played the way we can, we got some confidence and took control of the game."

Ironton, 17-4, now plays Lynchburg Clay at 3 p.m. Saturday in the district finals at Waverly. Lynchburg split its regular season games with Eastern Brown, losing 55-44 before coming back to win 44-29.

The win over the Lady Warriors gives Ironton some momentum going into the title game against Lynchburg, now 20-2 after spanking New Lexington 57-27 in the other district final.

"This win gives us a whole bunch of confidence. We know we can do it," Ironton guard Andrea Rudmann said.

Rudmann led Ironton with 23 points and had three assists. Center Candace Ferguson had 17 points and seven rebounds, and Hacker added 12 points. Hannon had five assists and two steals.

"(Coach Hughes) said to go inside. We were strong inside and that was their weakness," Hacker said. "Our guards did a good job getting us the ball inside."

Ironton missed several layups in the first quarter as Eastern Brown, the Division III state runner-up last season, eased out to a 13-10 lead.

But the Lady Tigers kicked into high gear in the second quarter. Ferguson, Hannon and Rudmann scored to start the quarter and give Ironton a16-13 lead.

After Ashley Knabb scored for the Warriors, Ironton went on a 13-0 run and led 29-15 with 42 seconds left in the half. A 3-pointer by Ashley Day got Eastern Brown within 29-18 at the break.

The lead began to disappear in the third quarter. Ironton was just 3 of 15 from the field and a 3-pointer by Day closed the gap to 36-34 at the end of the quarter.

"We were wanting to get the game over with so much that we got in a hurry. Coach (Hughes) said to slow it down and take our time. We did and got the lead back up," Rudmann said.

Day's 18-footer to open the fourth quarter tied the score, but Rudmann and Ferguson made foul shots and Henderson followed up a missed shot to make it 40-36.

Rudmann made another foul shot, Hacker and Ferguson hit layups, and Rudmann sank two more free throws for a 47-36 lead with 4:42 to play.

Eastern Brown tried to employ the "Hack-a-Shaq" strategy by fouling Ironton, hoping for missed free throws, and then shooting 3-pointers.

The strategy backfired as Ironton converted 19 of 24 at the line in the fourth quarter with Rudmann making 9 of 12, Hacker 4 of 4, and Ferguson and Hannon each went 3 of 4.

Cindy Reeves' basket had the Warriors down 57-55 with 32 seconds left, but Rudmann, Hannon and Hacker made two foul shots each over the final 29 seconds to secure the upset win.

Rudmann said she didn't even think about the pressure.

"I don't get nervous at the foul line. We work on it so much in practice I'm used to it," Rudmann said.

Morris scored 15 points, Day 13 and Knabb 11 to lead Eastern Brown which finished 18-3.