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Tournament run ends for Lady Fighting Tigers

COLUMBUS - It was a story book season for the Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers.

Unfortunately, someone let Stephen King write the final chapter.

Ironton had put together an amazing season. A school-record 24 wins and a run through the postseason that ended with a berth in the state tournament, only the second time in school history.

But the ending came crashing down as the powerhouse South Euclid Regina Royals rolled past the cold-shooting Lady Fighting Tigers 72-26 Friday in the Division III state semifinals at St. John Arena.

Ironton struggled to find its shooting touch the entire afternoon, hitting just 10 of 42 field goal attempts for a season-low 23.8 percent.

"We had a run through the tournament and season, we just faced a team that was more talented from top to bottom than anyone we've played all season," Ironton coach Amy Hughes said. "You can never take a 50-point loss as something good, but my kids never quit the entire game."

Leading scorer Andrea Rudmann had just 8 points on 3 of 14 shooting and Sara Hacker managed just 6 points on 1-of-7 from the field.

"It was my normal shots, they just weren't falling," Rudmann said. "I didn't want to go out like this."

Regina coach Pat Diulus said the easy win was unexpected but due to the team's defensive pressure.

"We carried out our game plan," Diulus said. "Number five Rudmann and number 33 Hacker were very good players and our kids did a good job of just taking them out of their game. (Ironton's point total) doesn't reflect how good Ironton is. When we get running that happens."

A key factor was rebounding. Ironton rarely got more than one shot at the basket and had only nine offensive rebounds while getting outrebounded 44-32.

Kristina Walton, who had 10 points, grabbed 14 rebounds including six on offense for Regina. First team All-Ohio guard Carla Jacobs led all scorers with 22 points.

"Every shot they took didn't matter if they missed because the seemed to get every rebound. Their offensive rebounding killed us," Hughes said.

The Lady Tigers trailed just 8-7 with 3:06 left in the first quarter when Mandi Boykin followed up a missed shot.

But Regina went on an 11-0 run to end the quarter and it was 19-7.

"We had a lot of turnovers and none of our shots would fall," Hughes said. "All season we would penetrate and kick out. We penetrated and kicked and they were stealing the pass. They cut down our passing lanes and forced turnovers."

Hacker hit a foul shot to start the second quarter and it was 19-8 with 7:24 left in the half, but Regina ran off 9 more points to complete a 20-1 run for a 28-8 lead with 1:22 on the clock.

Ironton failed to hit on 11 straight field goal attempts during the drought with nine turnovers.

Rudmann's layup at the 1:08 mark made it 28-10 but it was 32-10 at the break.

The Royals then outscored Ironton 22-8 in the third quarter to build a 54-18 lead.

While keeping two or three starters in the game, Regina kept its fullcourt press on the entire game. Royals coach Pat Diulus appeared offended when asked why he continued to press with a 40-point lead.

"What's the question?" he asked, then added, "I'm proud our kids play hard all the time."

The margin of victory surpassed Delphos St. John's record 42-point win over Navarre Fairless in 1980.

Regina (24-3), ranked sixth in the final regular-season Associated Press poll, beat Hamler Patrick Henry (25-1) in Saturday's championship game for its fifth state title in six seasons.

Regina is the only Ohio high school to ever win four consecutive girls state basketball titles, dominating Division III from 2000 through 2003. The Royals didn't make it to the state last year, losing to eventual champion Youngstown Ursuline while Jacobs was sidelined with a knee injury.