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Fighting Tigers, Panthers meet in regional cat fight

ATHENS - Round 2 at the Convo.

About a month ago, Ironton and Chesapeake met in a battle of unbeatens before 3,000 fans at the Ironton Sports Center.

The two teams will square off in a rematch only this time the stakes are higher and the game will be on a neutral floor at the Ohio University Convocation Center at 8 p.m. Thursday.

On the line is a chance to play in the regional finals at 1 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Thursday's first game at 6:15 p.m. between Bellaire (19-5) and Bloom Carroll (16-6).

Bellaire reached the regionals by getting past Old Washington Buckeye Trail 62-58 in double overtime. Bloom-Carroll advanced by edging Worthington Christian 54-53.

In the first meeting, Ironton (23-0) jumped out to a 19-2 lead and led by as many as 20 points before coming away with a 59-47 win. Ironton coach Roger Zornes doesn't see things quite so easy this time.

"They're a good team. This is a different day and a different place. They'll be ready to play, I just hope we are. We weren't against Eastern Brown," Zornes said.

Chesapeake shot just 37 percent from the field in the first meeting and 38 percent from the 3-point line. Panthers coach Norm Persin knows his team can't repeat that performance.

"We have to play better. Every time you take another step up the tournament ladder, you have to play better," Chesapeake coach Norm Persin said.

Zornes doesn't expect either team to change their game or style of play at this stage of the season.

"I don't think they'll change anything. Both of us know each other well, it's just whoever brings their game and puts the ball in the basket," Zornes said. "We just need to be solid on both ends. We'll just play our game and see what happens. We'll keep going with what got us here, we just need to step it up."

Chesapeake (22-1) will look to its trio of P.J. Rase (14.0 points per game), Brennan Hall (11.0) and Trent Finley (9.0) for its offense.

The Fighting Tigers counter with Dennis Gagai who had 33 points in the district championship win over Eastern Brown. Gagai averages 17.1 points a game.

Brigham Waginger brings his overall game to the table. Waginger averaged 15.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 3.8 steals. Joe Zornes averages 11.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest and is the team's leading 3-point field goal percentage shooter.