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Ironton works its way past Portsmouth to sectional title

JACKSON - By cutting their work in half, the Ironton Fighting Tigers were able to get the job done.

Switching from a fullcourt pressure defense to halfcourt, Ironton shutdown the Portsmouth Trojans for a 54-30 win Friday and the Division III sectional championship.

"Our defense was pretty solid. We backed off and played a little more halfcourt defense because we got in a little foul trouble early and it was working," Ironton coach Roger Zornes said.

Ironton forced 20 turnovers, all over the first three quarters against the first team defense. But the Fighting Tigers still didn't take full advantage of the Portsmouth mistakes.

"We only shot about 34 percent. I expected to play better, but we came out a little flat. But the defense did what we wanted," Zornes said.

Portsmouth (5-16) was held to single digit scoring in each of the first three quarters. On the other end, Ironton's Dennis Gagai outscored the Trojans by himself with 23 points in three quarters as Ironton held a 45-19 lead.

A slow pace in the first quarter had Ironton up 9-6 following a 3-pointer by Brigham Waginger. Gagai then hit a trifecta with one second on the clock and it was 12-6.

The shot ignited Gagai who scored 9 more points to begin the second quarter and give Ironton a 21-6 lead.

A.J. Johnson hit a 12-footer for Portsmouth to end the run, but Joe Zornes hit a 3-pointer and Gagai converted 4 of 5 from the foul line to make it 30-12 at the break.

"My outside shot wasn't falling early, so coach (Greg) Arden said to take it inside and I did. Once I hit a few shots inside, my outside shot started falling," Gagai said after hitting three treys among his total.

The Fighting Tigers limited Portsmouth to two field goals in the third quarter as they continued to pad their lead.

Marcus Williams made a layup and then Gagai hit a foul shot and a 3-pointer with 15 seconds on the clock as the lead ballooned to 45-19 heading into the fourth quarter.

Joe Zornes had 11 points and nine rebounds for Ironton while Waginger added 10 points, three assists and four steals. Gagai had 8 rebounds.

The Fighting Tigers (21-0) will play Piketon at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Ohio University in the district semifinals.

Justin Nelson had 10 points for Portsmouth (6-15).

Portsmouth66711=30

Ironton1218159=54

PORTSMOUTH (6-15):

A.J. Johnson 2-9 (1-4) 0-0 5, Justin Nelson 4-13 (2-7) 0-0 10, Michael Valentine 2-10 (1-4) 0-0 5, Michael Purdy 2-7 (1-3) 3-4 8, Michael Hickman 0-3 (0-0) 0-0 0, Jeffrey Pendleton 0-1 (0-1) 0-0 0, Bryan Taylor 0-2 (0-1) 0-0 0, Shane Porter 0-0 (0-0) 0-0 0, Charlie Doll 0-0 (0-0) 0-0 0, Nicholas Chabot 0-1 (0-0) 2-2 2, Cody Farney 0-0 (0-0) 0-0 0, Justin Skaggs 0-1 (0-1) 0-0 0. Totals: 10-48

(5-22)

5-6

30. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: None. Rebounds: 12-17=29 (Hickman 8, Johnson 5). Team/deadball rebounds: 5. Total rebounds: 34. Assists: 1 (Hickman). Steals: 5 (Johnson 3). Turnovers: 20. FG% – 20.8. FT% – 83.3. 3pt% – 22.7.

IRONTON (21-0):

Dennis Gagai 7-16 (3-7) 6-9 23, Brigham Waginger 2-7 (1-2) 2-2 11, Joe Zornes 4-9 (1-5) 2-2 11, Cliff Howard 1-3 (0-0) 0-0 2, Marcus Williams 2-3 (0-0) 0-2 4, Brent McBride 0-3 (0-0) 0-0 0, Greg Linn 0-2 (0-0) 0-2 0, Patrick Kouns 1-2 (0-0) 1-2 3, Brian Wirzfeld 0-1 (0-1) 0-0 0, Shawon Miller 0-0 (0-0) 0-0 0, Brandon Walker 0-1 (0-0) 0-0 0, Michael Phillips 0-0 (0-0) 0-0 0, T.J. Keith 0-0 (0-0) 1-2 1. Totals: 17-47

(5-15)

15-24

54. Fouls: 8. Fouled out: None. Rebounds: 14-22=36 (Zornes 9, Gagai 8, Williams 5). Team/deadball rebounds; 5. Total rebounds: 41. Assists: 9 (Waginger 3, Howard 2). Steals: 11 (Waginger 4, Gagai 2, Williams 2, Zornes 2, Howard 1). Turnovers: 12. FG% – 36.2. FT% – 62.5. 3pt% – 33.3.