Gagai#8217;s offense, Ironton defense produces win

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 3, 2006

CANTON — When the Ironton Fighting Tigers look for offense, their eyes usually focus on Dennis Gagai.

The 6-foot-3 senior guard had all eyes on him Saturday and he left them wide-open with a 25-point performance as Ironton beat the St. Thomas Aquinas Knights 58-47 Saturday in the Pizza Oven Classic at North Canton Hoover High School.

“We’re looking to go to him more in the second half of the season,” Ironton coach Mark LaFon said. “We still want to find some more guys who will step up and score, but we’re starting to learn the offense and that should help.”

Email newsletter signup

While Gagai provided the bulk of the offense, his teammates focused on other areas, namely defense and rebounding.

Led by senior Brandon Walker with a game-high 12 rebounds, Ironton dominated the glass 35-17. Alstan Carter had eight rebounds to go with nine points.

The Knights had only four players score, all in double figures. Zach Dempsey had 13 points, John Dibatista and Kendall Washington 12 each and Nick Walker scored 10 off the bench.

However, St. Thomas Aquinas was only 15 of 43 from the field and was guilty of 22


“This is a good shooting team. Everyone we talked to said they can knock it down from the perimeter,” LaFon said. “They shot 34 percent so we did a good job of defending them.”

The Fighting Tigers had 21 turnovers, but most of them were unforced errors.

“We’re not used to the style they play in this area. They let a lot of things go and let you play more physical. A lot of our turnovers were from adjusting to the style of play. We did a better job in the second half playing their style,” LaFon said.

Gagai helped build a 13-7 lead with six points and a three-point play by Troy Allen put Ironton up 16-7 at the end of the first quarter.

T.J. Keith hit a 10-footer with 20 seconds left in the half to extend Ironton’s lead to 28-17 at intermission.

A 3-pointer by Gagai gave Ironton it’s biggest lead to date at 31-19 only to have St. Thomas closed to within 36-30 on a short jumper by Washington.

But a layup by Allen off a nice pass from Gagai put the lead at 38-30 heading into the fourth quarter.

Gagai, who drained five 3-pointers, his a long shot to open the fourth quarter and it was 41-30. Carter followed up his own missed shot and Gagai made a layup to open up a 48-32 lead with 4:18 to play.

Dempsey’s 3-pointer cut the deficit to 48-38, but the Knights would get no closer as Marc Carter made a layup and Ironton converted 6 of 8 from the line over the final 1:52.