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Fighting Tigers come of age to beat Athens, 70-68

ATHENS, Ohio — Mark LaFon figured it was time to cut the umbilical cord.

It didn’t seem like the time with the score tied and playing on the road in a league game, but the Ironton head coach said the timing was right.

So instead of calling a timeout, LaFon called a play and let the offense go. As a result, the Fighting Tigers got a basket by Andy Colegrove off a nice feed from Chad Miller and beat the Athens Bulldogs 70-68.

“I didn’t want to call a timeout. I wanted them to do it,” LaFon said. “I called a set and they ran it, but the shot wasn’t there. To their credit, they backed it out and ran it again, Chad didn’t force the shot and made a nice pass to Andy and he finished.”

T.J. Keith scored a career-high 17 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Miller had 16 points to go with 3 assists and 3 steals. Colegrove had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Derek Waters scored 16 points and Brad Bentley 15 to lead Athens.

Ironton (9-4, 5-4) had opened the game with an 11-0 run before Athens scored at the 5:19 mark and added two more baskets to trail 11-5.

But as the quarter came to a close, Miller hit a 3-pointer and two foul shots to push the lead to 24-12.

Dustin Green hit a layup to give Ironton its biggest lead at 31-18. Matthew Witten hit a 3-pointer with a minute left in the half to get Athens to within 36-33.

Zach Christensen and Green may layups just before the end of the half and Ironton’s lead was 40-33 at the break.

Two baskets by T.J. Keith triggered an 8-0 run as Ironton went in front 48-37. But Athens (5-11, 3-6) came back again and trailed 56-53 on a 3-point play by Waters with 10 seconds on the clock.

Colegrove followed up a missed shot just before the buzzer and Ironton lead 58-53.

“We got some fouls called and then we were back on our heels. We did the same thing in the third quarter and it happened again,” LaFon said.

Ironton kept the lead until Bentley hit a 3-pointer with 35 seconds to play to tie the game at 68-68.

The Fighting Tigers then ran their final play as Colegrove scored with 8 seconds left and it was 70-68.

Athens tried to get the ball inside only to have it knocked away. Keith then intercepted the inbounds pass to end the game.

“My number one thing on the board was to play with road composure and we did that,” LaFon said. “We weren’t bad defensively, things just happened and they were able to make some shots.”