Zornes#039; last-second shot keeps Fighting Tigers unbeaten

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2005

REEDSVILLE - Pick your poison.

With the game on the line, the Ironton Fighting Tigers have four main options. This time, they picked Joe Zornes and the senior forward hit a spinning jumper at the buzzer to beat the Reedsville Eastern Eagles 60-58 Tuesday night.

"It was a set play where we can go to Joe, Dennis, Brigham or even Cliff," Ironton coach Roger Zornes said. "Joe was the first one (Brigham Waginger) saw open. Joe stepped up and made a big shot."

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The shot by Joe Zornes kept the Division III third-ranked Fighting Tigers unbeaten at 17-0. The loss was the third for Reedsville (13-3) which is ranked 7th in Division IV.

Coach Zornes was happy with the win, but he lamented the team's poor shooting in the small Eastern gym. Ironton was just 22 of 61 from the field for 36 percent. Leading scorer Dennis Gagai had 11 points but struggled with a 5-for-19 shooting effort including 1-of-10 from behind the arc.

"We made so many mistakes and shot the ball so bad. It was just one of those games," coach Zornes said. "We needed to keep our intensity the whole way and not just at the end. If we had done that, it wouldn't have been so close."

Waginger led Ironton with 15 points, five assists and five steals. Cliff Howard, who sat out half the game in foul trouble, had 12 points while Joe Zornes scored 11 and grabbed six rebounds. Marcus Williams had eight rebounds.

Nathan Cozart scored 18 points for Eastern but was only 5-of-18 from the field and 2-of-9 from 3-point range. The Eagles twin towers of Robert Cross and Cody Dill had 15 and 13 points, respectively.

But the key for Ironton was its defense that forced 23 turnovers.

"We were quicker than they were and our pressure forced them into a lot of mistakes," coach Zornes said.

"Brigham did a good job of harassing Kozart. The only bad thing was the two fouls on the 3-point plays and Kozart knocked down all six shots. That was just lazy defense on our part."

Eastern led the final 4:25 of the first quarter including 15-9 at the end of the stanza, and they held the lead almost the entire second quarter. A layup by Cross put the Eagles up 23-17 for their biggest lead of the game.

But Gagai and Waginger came up with back-to-back steals for layups, Greg Linn sank two foul shots, and Joe Zornes hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer and Ironton was up 26-24 at the break.

A 3-point play by Waginger and a steal and layup by Gagai gave Ironton its biggest lead of the game at 35-28 with 5:30 left in the third quarter.

Eastern rallied when Kozart was fouled on two straight possession attempting a 3-point goal. He made all six foul shots as the Eagles took a 36-35 lead.

But Waginger hit a 3-pointer and followed up his own missed shot at the buzzer to give Ironton a 44-42 lead after three quarters.

Cross hit three 15-footers in a row to give Easter a 50-46 lead with 3:55 to play, but Ironton went on an 8-0 run as Waginger hit a 3-pointer and Howard scored 5 points and it was 54-50 with 2:42 left.

Eastern tied the game at 58-58 with 10 seconds to go when Kozart forced up a 3-pointer as he was falling down. Ironton then set up its game-winning play.

"Kozart made an unbelievable shot. I don't know how it went in," coach Zornes said. "We set up a play we thought we would be successful with. I told Brigham to survey the floor and see what the best option was. They had to switch and it caused a little mismatch."

Ironton faces a bigger challenge over the final three games. The Fighting Tigers are at Div. I Groveport on Saturday and host second-ranked Chesapeake next Tuesday before closing the season against rival Portsmouth.

"Groveport is very athletic. They may be the best team we've played all season up until now," coach Zornes said.



IRONTON (17-0):

Dennis Gagai 5-19 (1-10) 0-0 11, Brigham Waginger 5-11 (2-3) 3-4 15, Joe Zornes

4-16 (1-3) 2-2 11, Cliff Howard 5-7 (0-0) 2-5 12, Marcus Williams 2-6 (0-0) 1-4 5, Brent McBride 1-2 (0-0) 0-0 2, Greg Linn 0-0 (0-0) 2-2 2, Patrick Kouns 0-0 (0-0) 2-2 2. Totals: 22-61



60. Fouls: 13. Fouled out: None. Rebounds: 14-17=31 (Williams 8, Zornes 6, Waginger 5). Team/deadball rebounds: 2. Assists: 10 (Waginger 5). Steals: 12 (Waginger 5, Gagai 4). Turnovers: 15.


Nathan Kozart 5-18 (2-9) 6-6 18, Cody Dill 6-9 (0-0) 1-3 13, Robert Cross 7-12 (0-0) 1-5 15, Adam Dillard 0-1 (0-0) 2-3 2, Derek Balm 0-1 (0-1) 0-0 0, Chris Myers 2-4 (0-2) 0-0 4, Chris Carroll 3-5 (0-0) 0-0 6. Totals: 23-50



58. Fouls: 16. Fouled out: None. Rebounds: 9-23=32 (Dill 12, Dillard 6). Assists: 7 (Kozart 3). Steals: 4 (Dillard 2). Turnovers: 23.