Fighting Tigers win battle of unbeatens

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 14, 2005

Ironton coach Roger Zornes decided to use the Boy Scout motto "Be Prepared."

Chesapeake coach Norm Persin tried to use the same motto, but he wasn't passing out any merit badges.

In the much-anticipated showdown of 18-0 Ironton and the 18-0 Chesapeake Panthers, the Fighting Tigers came away with a 59-47 win Tuesday before a standing room only crowd at the Harold Conley Sports Center.

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Coach Zornes said Ironton's strong schedule of teams like Wheelersburg, Zanesville, DeSales, Eastern and Groveport were instrumental in the win pitting the No. 2 ranked Panthers against the No. 3 Fighting Tigers.

"Chesapeake is a good basketball team, but I think we were prepared. We realize our schedule we play is very good and it prepares us for big games," coach Zornes said. "This was a great atmosphere and it was a step in the right direction. We want to take our program to another level."

Persin said Ironton didn't do anything that he didn't expect or prepare for, but his team didn't respond to an early Ironton onslaught.

"In their big games, Ironton has come out fast. We knew the first four or five minutes were crucial," Panthers coach Norm Persin said. "We didn't give ourselves a chance. We got in a hurry throwing up shots and then we had to hurry back on defense."

The Fighting Tigers took control from the start as they raced to a 19-2 lead with 1:50 left in the first quarter. Justin Porter hit a couple of 3-pointers as the Panthers cut the lead to 20-8, but a layup by Cliff Howard made it 22-8 at the end of the quarter.

"The key to the game was getting a fast start," Ironton guard Dennis Gagai said. "I think they got down and lost their confidence. I was pretty confident. I thought we'd win, but not a 15-point victory."

Gagai had 8 points in the first quarter and 16 for the game.

Chesapeake, shooting only 37 percent for the game and 8 for 26 the first half, managed to get within 29-21 on a 3-pointer by Caleb McComas with 1:56 left in the half. Ironton answered as Brigham Waginger hit a 3-pointer and a layup and then passed to Joe Zornes for a layup just before the buzzer to make it 36-21 at the break.

"If you don't shoot well, you're not going to win. You can't dig a hole against Ironton. They're the best team in Southeast Ohio," Persin said.

A steal by Gagai who fed Waginger for a layup staked Ironton to its biggest lead at 47-27 with 3:03 to play in the third quarter.

The Fighting Tigers' lead was 58-41 with 54 seconds to play after four free throws by Waginger. Chesapeake's Trent Finley hit a couple of 3-pointers in the closing seconds to make the score more respectable.

Waginger, who had 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, said it was a big win but kept the game in perspective.

"This was an awesome atmosphere. It'll get us ready for the tournament. But we're just looking forward to the next team. This is something that'll mean more down the road when we look back at it. Right now it's just another game," Waginger said.

Joe Zornes had 11 points and Howard 9 points and seven rebounds.

Brennan Hall had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Chesapeake. Finley finished with 11 points and Porter had 10 points and six rebounds.

In the reserve game, Ironton won 45-24 as Chad Miller scored 12 points while T.J. Keith and Michael Phillips had 9 each. Tyler Shoemaker led the Panthers with 11.




Brennan Hall 8-15 (0-0) 1-1 17, P.J. Rase 2-14 (2-7) 0-0 6, Justin Porter 4-5 (2-3) 0-0 10, Trent Finley 4-10 (3-8) 0-0 11, Brent Ransbottom 0-0 (0-0) 0-0 0, Caleb McComas 1-3 (1-2) 0-0 3, Jeff Thornburg 0-2 (0-1) 0-0 0, Matt Whitmore 0-0 (0-0) 0-0 0, Dustin O'Brien 0-2 (0-0) 0-2 0. Totals: 19-51



47. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: Hall (4th 0:31). Rebounds: 10-15=25 (Hall 10, Porter 6). Team/deadball rebounds: 3. Assists: 8 (Finley 3, Rase 2). Steals: 1 (Ransbottom). Turnovers: 14. FG% 37. FT% 33. 3pt% 38.

IRONTON (19-0):

Dennis Gagai 8-13 (0-2) 0-0 16, Brigham Waginger 4-12 (1-5) 7-10 16, Joe Zornes 5-13 (1-1) 0-1 11, Cliff Howard 3-4 (0-0) 3-6 9, Marcus Williams 2-4 (0-0) 0-0 4, Brent McBride 0-0 (0-0) 0-0 0, Greg Linn 1-1 (0-0) 0-0 2, Patrick Kouns 0-1 (0-0) 1-2 1, Brian Wirzfeld 0-0 (0-0) 0-0 0, Shawon Miller 0-0 (0-0) 0-0 0, Chad Miller 0-0 (0-0) 0-0 0. Totals: 23-48



59. Fouls: 8. Fouled out: None. Rebounds: 9-18=27 (Howard 7, Waginger 7, Gagai 5). Team/rebounds: 3. Assists: 16 (Waginger 7, Zornes 3, Gagai 3). Steals: 8 (Gagai 4, Waginger 2). Turnovers: 8. FG% 48. FT% 58. 3pt% 25.