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Zornes proves a hit with state tourney media

Not only did the Ironton Fighting Tigers win the hearts of the crowd Saturday at the Schottenstein Center, but coach Roger Zornes was a hit with the media.

Ironton's tenacious play and near major upset of top-ranked North College Hill

in the Division III state championship game created a Rocky V scene. Fans who came to see O.J. Mayo and the expected blowout by the Trojans began to cheer for Ironton as it battled to the final buzzer.

One media member commented he had never heard the Schottenstein Center so loud and applauded the Ironton fans for the vocal support the entire game.

"We had total community support," Zornes aid. "It's all about the kids with our fans."

Zornes said his team didn't believe all the reports that gave Ironton no chance to win and made them anywhere from 20 to 30 point underdogs.

"We don't fear anyone. It's just basketball," Zornes said. "It was a gutty effort. We never left anything on the floor. We fear no one. We had our chances. They didn't leave one ounce of energy (on the floor)."

One person asked Zornes if part of his strategy was to show his players the movie "Hoosier." Zornes just shook his head.

"No 'Hoosiers.' Well, we did watch it on the way up (on

the bus). We're a bunch of hillbillies. We like that movie any time. I like my country music," Zornes said as the group laughed.

Not only did Ironton face a much taller North College Hill team, but center Cliff Howard - who had 28 points and 16 rebounds - was ill the night before and Joe Zornes was playing his fourth game on a fractured ankle.

"We looked like a M*A*S*H unit in the hotel (Friday) night. But we're not making any excuses. We battled them," Zornes said.

As for the blocking call on Howard with 1:40 to play and Ironton trailing 64-63, Zornes argued it was a charging foul and should have given the ball back to Ironton.

"It was questionable. I'll leave it at that. I've been fined before,"

Zornes said with a grin.

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Early numbers

The early enrollment numbers are projecting that the girls Division III state basketball champion Regina Royals will move up to Division II next season.

However, Africentric appears to be moving from Division IV to III. Africentric (a.k.a. C.A.P.E.) is only in its second year and is a public school operating more like a private school.

Regina, which reportedly flew to the state title game thanks to its coach, Pat Diulus, has won five of the last six Div. III state titles. The only miss was last season when leading scorer Carla Jacobs missed the regionals with a knee injury.

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Bench support

Why did North College (Hill) have so many lopsided wins this season?

A hint might come from the state semifinal game in which the Trojans blasted Loudonville 75-42.

With a little more than three minutes to play, North College coach Jamie Mahaffey lined up five new players in front of the scorer's table. However, when the clock stopped, NCH players refused to come out and Mahaffey sent the substitute players back to the bench.

The starters eventually left with 1:08 to play and the Trojans leading 73-42.

I'm sure coach Zornes would have reacted a little bit differently.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.