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Tigers burn Warriors for district title

ATHENS - When Dennis Gagai catches fire, it seems opponents are always getting burned.

Gagai made just 2 of his first 13 shots, then made 6 of 9 from the field and 12 of 14 from the foul line over the final 1:10 of the game as he scored 33 points to lead the Ironton Fighting Tigers to a 71-65 come-from-behind win over the Eastern Brown Warriors Sunday to win the Division III district championship.

"I had every shot I wanted. My shot felt good all night, but in the last three minutes it started falling," Gagai said.

Ironton coach Roger Zornes said his team wasn't mentally ready when the game started. He called a time out at the 5:50 mark of the first quarter for a tongue lashing to get them jump started.

"We weren't playing team ball and I got on them," coach Zornes said. "We started doing the little things and then our shots finally started falling."

Gagai said the players got a wake up call thanks to the Warriors and Brett Beucler who scored 30 points including eight 3-pointers, six in the fourth quarter and five in a row.

"We know we have to come in and play game in and game out including myself," Gagai said.

Brigham Waginger added 16 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists and five steals for Ironton and Cliff Howard had 14 points and 8 rebounds.

The Fighting Tigers will play Chesapeake at 8 p.m. Thursday in the regional semifinals at Ohio University.

Eastern Brown, 17-6, also got 18 points from Kevin Hoover who was 4 of 9 from 3-point range. The Warriors were 13 of 33 from behind the arc with Beucler going 8 of 19, mostly from the 25-to-30 foot range.

The game moved at a slow pace for three quarters. Hoover had a pair of treys and scored 8 points in the first quarter as Eastern Brown led 16-11.

Ironton cut the deficit to 25-21 with 40 seconds to go in the half on a layup by Gagai off a steal by Brent McBride, but Kevin Gosche sank two foul shots and it was 27-21 at the break.

Howard, who sat out most of the first half in foul trouble, returned and began to control the boards. Howard sank a foul shot and Waginger made two free throws with 56 seconds on the clock to tie the game at 35-35.

Hoover hit a 3-pointer and a layup to open the fourth quarter and Eastern Brown quickly opened up a 40-35 lead.

A triple by Waginger cut the spread to 45-44 and Gagai hit another trifecta with 3::44 left to put Ironton up 47-45.

"Coach didn't think we were playing very hard," Howard said. "I just figured if we eat them up on the inside, that would open things up on the outside.

Buecler's 3-pointer sent the Warriors back on top, but Gagai drained two straight from behind the arc and Chad Miller sank two clutch foul shots for a 55-48 lead with 2:04 to play.

Beucler hit a 25-footer and then Gagai pulled up and hit from 15 feet. Howard made two more foul shots as did Gagai with 1:10 left and the lead was 61-51.

But Beucler hit five straight 3-pointer from the 25-foot and beyond range including a bank shot from straight away with 40 seconds left to make it 64-60.

"They set picks for (Buecler} and we got mixed up," Waginger said.

The Warriors continued to foul and it always seemed to be Gagai. He converted 7 of 8 from the line over the final 38 seconds to seal the win.

"The biggest thing is we started rebounding about the middle of the third quarter," coach Zornes said. "They were getting the loose balls and hustling, then we started knocking down the shots.

"(Buecler) got a little unconscious and we lost him in our switches. He's a good player and he just got red hot."

Thursday's first game at 6:15 p.m. matches Bellaire and Bloom-Carroll. Thursday's winner's are scheduled to meet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday but the time could change in the event the Ironton boys are in the regional finals and the Ironton girls are in the state finals at 5:15 p.m.

E. Brown1611830=65

Ironton11101436=71

EASTERN BROWN (17-6):

Brett Beucler 9-26 4-4 30, Kevin Hoover 7-14 0-0 18, Kevin Gosche 3-11 3-4 9, Blake Spiller 1-4 2-2 4, Brian Watson 0-0 0-0 0, Tyler Richey 0-1 0-1 0, Zach Mays 0-0 0-0 0, Jeff Henderson 0-0 1-2 1, C.J. Dorsey 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan Michael 1-2 0-0 3. Totals: 21-55

10-13

65. Fouls: 26. Fouled out:

Mays (4th 0:50). 3-point goals: 13-33 (Beucler 8-17, Hoover 4-9, Gosche 0-5, Michael 1-2). Rebounds: 9-18=27 (Beucler 7, Hoover 5, Spiller 4). Team/deadball rebounds: 6. Totals rebounds: 33. Assists: 8 (Spiller 3). Steals: 5 (Beucler 2). Turnovers: 17. FG% – 38.2. FT% – 76.9. 3-pt. goals – 39.4.

IRONTON (23-0):

Dennis Gagai 8-21 12-14 33, Brigham Waginger 6-11 3-6 16, Joe Zornes 1-5 0-0 2, Cliff Howard 4-7 6-8 14, Marcus Williams 0-2 0-0 0, Brent McBride 0-1 0-0 0, Patrick Kouns 2-2 0-0 4, Brian Wirzfeld 0-0 0-0 0, Chad Miller 0-0 2-2 2. Total: 21-50

23-30

71. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: None. 3-point goals: 5-20 (Gagai 5-13, Waginger 1-4, Zornes 0-2, McBride 0-1). Rebounds: 10-21=31 (Waginger 10, Howard 8, Gagai 5). Team/deadball rebounds: 3. Total rebounds: 34. Assists: 12 (Waginger 8, Gagai 3). Steals: 9 (Waginger 5, McBride 2). Turnovers: 11. FG% – 42. FT% – 76.7. 3-pt. goals – 25.