Fighting Tigers need perfect game

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 3, 2006

The Fighting Tigers will need a purrrrfect game.

The coaches believe getting to the Division III regional semifinal game has been a lot easier than it is going to be to win the regional, and the road hasn’t been none too easy.

Just ask Ironton coach Mark LaFon as his team prepares for Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. regional championship against the powerhouse Wheelersburg Pirates.

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“We played some teams like South Point that were very athletic, and North Adams and Fort Frye who had some great shooters and we managed to play well,” LaFon said.

“But Wheelersburg is both athletic and has a bunch of shooters. On top of that, they have good size. They’re one of the most talented teams we’ve seen all year and we’ve seen some pretty good teams. Obviously, we’ll have to play virtually a perfect game just to have a chance against them.”

LaFon was referring to Ironton’s schedule that included Huntington, W.Va., Columbus DeSales — a regional qualifier in Division II — Mount Vernon, Capital, W.Va., Russell, Ky., and Cincinnati Harmony.

“The thing that sets them apart from some of the teams we’ve played is their size. They create a lot of matchup problems for us,” LaFon said.

Wheelersburg comes into the game 22-2 and riding a 13-game winning streak. One of the Pirate wins this season was 67-58 over Ironton and they did it without leading scorer Camden Miller, a 6-foot-7 junior who can shoot a 3-pointer as easy as a layup.

“Miller is a great shooter, but what he does is cause matchup problems. We don’t have anyone bigger than 6-3, so there’s no way we can match their height. We have a 5-7 point guard and they’re point guard is 6-4,” LaFon said.

Ironton (19-5) will rely on senior Dennis Gagai, the Southeast District Player of the Year who is averaging 21.3 points a game. LaFon isn’t sure that will be enough.

“Dennis can’t do it by himself. We have to have everyone stepping up like we have been. But we’ve been stepping up against teams that aren’t as big or talented as Wheelersburg,” LaFon said.

Tip-off Saturday is 7:30 p.m. The winner advances to the state tournament Thursday to play the Canton regional winner which matches Bedford Chanel (18-6) and Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joe (19-6).