Ironton girls realize dream come true with state tournament berth

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

LANCASTER - The dream became a reality.

Every team begins the postseason with a dream of making the state tournament. Most of the teams realize it's only a dream. Others have a legitimate chance but still fall short of their goal.

The Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers began their dream before the season and woke up Sunday morning with that dream now a fact.

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Ironton, 24-1, beat West Muskingum 54-41 Saturday to win the Division III regional championship and earned a trip to the state tournament. Ironton faces South Euclid Regina at 3 p.m. Friday at St. John Arena.

"It pays to shoot all those shots in the backyard day after day," Ironton forward Sara Hacker said after scoring 26 points and grabbing 15 rebounds.

"We've worked all season to get to this point and we weren't going to lose. We dreamed all year of going to the state tournament and now we are."

Sarah Cartmell, who along with Andrea Rudmann are the team's only seniors, said the Lady Fighting Tigers were determined to win.

"We worked the whole season to get (to the state tournament). We're not going to quit now," Cartmell said.

Ironton's 5-foot-4 sophomore point guard Mandi Boykin drew the assignment of guarding West Muskingum's 6-foot center Jessica McKenzie who was the Central District Player of the Year and averaged 25.2 points a game.

But McKenzie was held below her average with 17 points.

"I'm so happy. People underestimated us and we hope we gained some respect," Boykin said.

Third-year Ironton coach Amy Hughes was a 2,000-point scorer in high school, a district Player of the Year, and signed with Connecticut, but she never got past the regional level during the tournament.

"Sara Hacker came up to me before the game and said they were going to win this game for me," Hughes said with a smile. "I never got to go to the state tournament as a player, but I guess this will do."

This marks the Ironton girls second trip to the state tournament. The first came in 1980.