Weary Ironton battles by Russell

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 3, 2006

FLATWOODS, Ky. — Their legs were like rubber, but their hearts were like steel.

Coming off an exhausting 65-63 upset win over Huntington High just two days ago, the Ironton Fighting Tigers battled past the surging Russell Red Devils 53-50 Friday.

“We had tired legs and we were hurting physically, but we still managed to dig down deep and give a great effort,” Ironton coach Mark LaFon said.

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“We had a rough, physical game (Wesdnesday), Dennis (Gagai) and Brandon (Walker) were playing on bad ankles, and we were playing a team that has been playing well in a place that’s tough to play.”

Gagai looked like he was passing out $100 bills the way he drew a crowd of defenders. Gagai still scored 21 points, 17 in the second half.

“Dennis was acting like it was the last two minutes of the game and it’s just the second quarter,” LaFon said.

“We just told Dennis to quit trying to win the game for us and just run the offense.”

Ironton had to overcome a 29-point performance by Russell’s sharp-shooting guard Jonathan Vanhoose that included seven 3-pointers.

“Vanhoose flat lit it up. He took a lot of bad shots, but when you’re hitting them and feeling it, you can do that,” LaFon said.

Russell spent most of the game shooting from the perimeter as evidenced by 22 of 40 shots coming from the 3-point line and shooting just three foul shots.

“The problem is we are living and dying on the perimeter,” Russell coach Steve Dodd said. “We didn’t get anything inside. Ironton did a good job of packing it in.”

The game was tied five times in the first half and there were three lead changes. Ironton stayed close as Walker scored eight of his 10 points. Russell managed to take a 22-20 halftime lead.

Gagai got hot in the third quarter as he scored 11 points. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Ironton a 34-29 lead with less than four minutes on the clock.

The Fighting Tigers were up 39-36 to start the fourth quarter but Russell took a 41-40 lead on a 3-point by Austin Blair with 3:09 to play.

Gagai hit a trey as Ironton regained the lead and a three-point play by Marc Carter pushed the lead to 46-41. Carter finished with 11 points.

Russell was forced to foul and Ironton converted 7 of 8 free throws over the final 1:02.

Gagai made two free throws with 11 seconds left and it was 51-47. Vanhoose hit another 3-pointer, but Carter sank two foul shots with one second left to apply the final dagger.

The win gave Ironton a final regular season record of 15-5 despite having only one returning player — Gagai — back from last season’s Division III state runner-up team.

“I feel great for my kinds. I feel great for the Ironton community and the people who believe in our kids,” LaFon said. “We’ve had an exciting season. Hopefully, we’ll continue to play well in the tournament.”

Ironton faces South Point at 7 p.m. Saturday at Rock Hill High School in the sectional tournament.

After winning eight of its last 10 games, Russell now falls to 13-11.



IRONTON (15-5): Dennis Gagai 6-15 (4-12) 5-6 21, Alstan Carter 2-3 (0-0) 2-2 6, Marc Carter 3-5 (1-3) 4-5 11, Brandon Walker 4-6 (1-2) 1-1 10, Michael Phillips 0-1 (0-0) 1-2 1, T.J. Keith 0-0 (0-0) 0-0 0, Trevor Allen 1-3 (0-1) 0-0 2, Troy Allen 1-1 (0-0) 0-0 2, J.J. Johnson 0-0 (0-0) 0-0 0. Totals: 17-34



53. Fouls: 10. Fouled out: None. Rebounds: 9-11=20 (Gagai 5, Trevor Allen 4, A. Carter 4, Walker 3, Phillips 3). Team/deadball rebounds: 1. Assists: 9 (Walker 2, Phillips 2, A. Carter 2). Steals: 5 (A. Carter, Walker, Johnson, Phillips, Gagai). Turnovers: 14.

RUSSELL (13-11): Jonathan Vanhoose 11-17 (7-12) 0-1 29, Jeremy Lavender 2-4 (1-2) 0-0 5, Austin Blair 3-7 (1-3) 0-0 7, Scott Gill 0-1 (0-0) 1-2 1, Jacob Sizemore 1-2 (0-1) 0-0 2, Marcus Frazier 2- (0-3) 0-0 4, Jared Simpson 0-1 (0-1) 0-0 0, Ross Turner 1-3 (0-1) 0-0 2. Totals: 20-41



50. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: Simpson (4th 0:01). Rebounds: 7-11=18 (Blair 6, Vanhoose 4). Team/deadball rebounds: 1. Assists: 6 (six with 1). Steals: 5 (Lavender 2, Vanhoose 4). Turnovers: 10.

RESERVES: Russell 37, Ironton 31. Ironton scoring: Zach Christensen 11, Drew Kuehne 6, Seth Kuehne 5, Dustin Greene 3, Bub Johnson 2, Byron Brammer 2, Shannon Hensley 2. Russell: Frazier 23, Turner 8, Ferguson 4, Harvey 2.