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Ironton will take its #039;Schott#039; at state title

ATHENS

- If you're looking for something comfortable to wear, don't make it the Ironton Fighting Tigers.

Ironton used its offense to wear down the Bloom-Carroll Bulldogs defense as the Fighting Tigers won 65-59 Saturday to claim the Division III regional championship and a spot in the Final Four next Friday at the Schottenstein Center on the campus of the Ohio State University.

The game was close until the third quarter when the Fighting Tigers opened up as much as a 12-point lead. They led by 11 points in the fourth quarter only to have the Bulldogs rally to tie the game and go to overtime.

But Ironton coach Roger Zornes said his team kept its cool and refused to crack under the pressure of the game and the Bloom-Carroll defense.

"They're a very good defensive team in a halfcourt set," coach Zornes said. "We wanted to make them play defense and wear them down. We wanted to keep running our offense and make them do some things they didn't want to do."

The key figures in the Ironton offense were Brigham Waginger who had 21 points, five assists and four steals while Dennis Gagai racked up 20 points and five rebounds.

Coach Zornes said Waginger and Gagai took over as Bloom-Carroll tried to shut down center Cliff Howard who had 20 points in the regional semifinal win.

"They wanted to cut off our inside and Dennis and Brigham stepped up and did it for us," coach Zornes said. "We have four guys in double figures. If try to take someone away, someone else will hurt you."

But to get to the Final Four, Ironton had to withstand another hot shooting performance. Bloom-Carroll was 10 of 22 from behind the 3-point line and Joe Goodyear was 7 of 15 on treys as he scored 23 points. Kale Richardson had 28 points and was 2 for 4 from behind the arc.

"We scouted them four times and the most 3-pointers (Goodyear) made was two or three. Everyone seems to be on fire when we play them," coach Zornes said.

The lead changed hands three times in the first quarter as B-C took a 15-13 lead. Gagai had a steal and layup at the 7:46 mark of the second quarter to tie the game and give him 1,000 career points. His 15-footer put Ironton ahead before Richardson tied the game.

Chad Miller hit a pair of 3-pointers as Ironton went up 25-21 only to have the Bulldogs tie the game at 28-28 on two free throws by Richardson. Gagai hit a 12-footer at the buzzer and Ironton led 30-28.

The Fighting Tigers then went on a 7-0 run to begin the second half and later led 45-33 as Gagai hit back-to-back 18-footers and Waginger sank two foul shots. A 3-pointer by Goodyear cut the lead to 45-36 heading into the fourth quarter.

"We weren't running our plays," Gagai said. "When we got the big lead, we ran our offense and we wore them out. I got most of my shots running through the offense. When they made their comeback we stopped running our offense for some reason."

Forward Joe Zornes, still bothered by a badly sprained ankle, hit Howard with a nice pass inside for a layup and Ironton was up 49-38.

"Joe has been hobbled up. He can't make moves like normal, but he bangs it up inside. I'm proud of him for the way he's sucked it up and battled," coach Zornes said.

Richardson hit a short jumper but Waginger countered by sinking both ends of a one-and-one for a 51-40 lead with 4:16 to play.

But Goodyear and Richardson hit 3-pointers and Ironton had two costly turnovers down the stretch.

Richardson made a second 3-pointer with 34 seconds left to cut the deficit to 55-53. Confusion on the inbounds pass saw the bounce right to Richardson who laid it in to tie the game with 32 seconds left in regulation.

Ironton held for the final shot but Gagai's jumper was off line and the team went to overtime.

Waginger came up with a steal and layup about one minute into the extra period to put Ironton up. Richardson made two foul shots and the game was tied at 57-57.

Howard connected on the second of two foul shots as Ironton took the lead for good at 58-57 with 1:28 on the clock and Waginger came up with another steal and fed Gagai for a layup as the lead went to 60-57 at the 1:05 mark.

Goodyear missed a shot and Waginger was fouled and hit both shots with 46 seconds left, but Drew Oxley made both ends of a one-and-one six seconds later as Bloom-Carroll trailed 62-59.

Gagai made the first of two foul shots and then Goodyear missed another shot with Howard grabbing the rebound.

Ironton turned the ball over, but Gagai deflected the ball to Marcus Williams who fed Gagai with a long pass and the clinching layup with five seconds left.

Although Goodyear had 23 points, he had just one 3-pointer and two foul shots in the fourth quarter and failed to make any of his three attempts in overtime.

"We knew he was a scorer, so we had someone in his face and fatigue got to him. He was getting good looks and my players heard from my rath. We were leaving him to double someone else and we left him wide open," coach Zornes said.

Ironton, 25-0, will play Archbold at 2 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals after North College Hill (25-1) and Loudonville (22-3) meet at 10:45 a.m. It is the second trip to the state tournament for the Fighting Tigers who also went in 1994.