Fighting Tigers scratch regional title from #039;to do#039; list

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

ATHENS - The "To Do" list was short. Saturday it got even shorter.

At the beginning of the season, the Ironton Fighting Tigers set three goals:

1. Go undefeated in the regular season.

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2. Get to the state tournament.

3. Win the state championship.

So far, two down and one to go.

Ironton ran its record to 25-0 Saturday with a 65-59 overtime win over Bloom-Carroll to claim the Division III Southeast Regional championship and earn the school's second state tournament berth.

Obviously, the players and coaches were excited.

"We had three goals at the beginning of the season and now we have two of them," said junior guard Brigham Waginger who scored 21 points in the win Saturday. "It's an awesome feeling."

Ironton coach Roger Zornes won seven regional titles in Kentucky, but he said this one is just as thrilling.

"I won seven regionals in Kentucky and everyone feels great. This one feels great," coach Zornes said. "One of our goals was to win the state championship and this is a step in that direction. The guys have worked hard to get there."

Senior Cliff Howard, who stepped in and took over the starting center position this season, said he never dreamed of the kind of season his team would enjoy.

"It's just a surprise," Howard said. "We just worked real hard to get there. We've been playing really well together. We've been using each other."

Joe Zornes, a senior forward and son of head coach Roger Zornes, has been playing the past two games on a badly sprained ankle. But Zornes wasn't going to let the injury stop the team's tournament run toward its ultimate goal.

"I've been dreaming about this since I was a young kid. I can't stop smiling. I hope we can bring (a state championship) home," Joe Zornes said.

Patrick Kouns, the backup at center, just grinned at the thought of playing in the state tournament.

"It's a dream. I always wanted to play at Schottenstein," Kouns said.

Junior guard Dennis Gagai, who had 20 points in the regional championship, doesn't want his team to be satisfied only with making the state tournament.

"It's great, but now we want the ring," Gagai said.

Coach Zornes said the Ironton fan support had a lot to do with the team's success all season, especially during its tournament run.

"The fans are up here (at the Ohio University Convocation Center) to root for these kids. They're the greatest fans I've been around in 32 years," said coach Zornes who spent 29 years in Kentucky.

Ironton will play Archbold

in the semifinals at 2 p.m. Friday on the campus of the Ohio State University in the 3-year-old Schottenstein Center. The championship game is Saturday at 5:15 p.m.