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Making the Plays

First, the Ironton Fighting Tigers popped the clutch. Then, they had to come up big in the clutch.

Ironton got out of the starting line fast by taking a 15-point lead the first quarter. After a Tory Horne-led comeback got Portsmouth within a single point, Tim Kochendoerfer clutched up at the foul line.

The Ironton senior guard converted 8 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter to help the Fighting Tigers to a 60-54 win over the Trojans Tuesday in a Southeastern Ohio Athletic League game.

“I was pleased with the win, but I’m upset with how we played in the second half,” said Ironton coach Mark LaFon.

“The first half we came out real aggressive. We didn’t do that in the second half. We knew they would make a run. They hit some 3s and we missed too many free throws. But we were able to regroup and make some plays at the end.”

With the win Ironton improved to 9-2 overall and remains atop the league at 6-0. The Fighting Tigers now play a pivotal game at second-place Chillicothe on Friday.

Against the Trojans, Ironton used 8 points by Travis Elliott to bolt in front 19-4 and the defense forced eight turnovers and caused Portsmouth to make just 2-of-12 shots.

Horne hit three 3-points and Forrest Johnson hit another triple for Portsmouth in the second quarter to get within 23-16.

But Ironton’s Erin Edens got a steal and fed Tommy Waginger for a layup and Waginger added a technical free throw whistled on the play to make it 33-18 at the half.

It was Horne again dialing up his long-distance shooting with a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter plus he made four foul shots as Portsmouth began creeping back into the game.

Ironton’s lead was down to 42-37 at the end of the third quarter and a 3-pointer by Evans at the 7:39 mark got Portsmouth within 42-40.

Two foul shots by Horne with 7:07 to play got Portsmouth within 43-42. The Trojans trailed by one point on four more occasions, but each time the Trojans got close Ironton would have an answer.

J.P. Taylor had a putback with 1:38 to go and made a foul shot about a minute later to help Ironton open up a 57-53 lead.

Kochendoerfer — who sat out almost half the game in foul trouble — foiled the Portsmouth strategy to foul as he connected on 5-of-6 free throw over the final 3:03 of the game — three in the final 26 seconds.

“I wanted to take the ball and take the shot. Coach (LaFon) tells me I need to be a leader,” said Kochendoerfer.

“We came out and blitzed them early and in the second half we came out flat. They came back and it was more of a wake-up call and we had to make a run.”

Elliott had 16 points to pace a balanced Ironton offense. Kochendoerfer and Waginger had be 15 points each while Taylor added 10 points. Erin Edens and Taylor grabbed 9 rebounds each.

“Travis Elliott was the difference in the game. He scored some big baskets early ad in the second half he gutted it out and made some big plays. He played well,” said LaFon.

Horne led all scorers as he got half of Portsmouth’s points with 27. Dion McKinley had 8 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots.

Portsmouth 4 14 19 17 = 54

Ironton 19 14 9 18 = 60

PORTSMOUTH (6-4, 5-2): Forrest Johnson 2 1 0-0 7, Wayne Evans 0 2 1-2 7, Tory Horne 3 5 6-6 27, London Malone 0 1 0-0 3, Dion McKinley 4 0 0-2 8, Isaiah Reeves 0 0 2-5 2, Patrick Underwood 0 0 0-0 0, Adam Bray 0 0 0-0 0, Len Collins 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-63 9-14 60. Fouls: 26. Fouled out: McKinley (4th 4:07). 3-point goals: 9-28. Rebounds: 15 offense, 26 defense = 41 (McKinley 11, Horne 8, Reeves 6, Johnson 6). Team rebounds: 6. Assists: 11 (Evans 4, Johnson 3). Steals: 7 (Johnson 2, Horne 2, Malone 2). Turnovers: 20. Blocked shots: 4 (McKinley 4).

IRONTON (9-2, 6-0): Tommy Waginger 5 1 2-4 15, Travis Elliott 6 0 4-9 16, Tim Kochendoerfer 3 0 9-13 15, Erin Edens 0 0 0-4 0, Zac Carter 1 0 2-2 4, Malcolm Morton 0 0 0-2 0, J.P. Taylor 4 0 2-4 10, Josh Murphy 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-48 19-38 60. Fouls: 13. Fouled out: None. 3-point goals: 1-10. Rebounds: 15 offense, 31 defense = 46 (Edens 9, Taylor 9, Elliott 7, Morton 7). Team rebounds: 6. Assists: 10 (Morton 3, Edens 2, Elliott 2). Steals: 9 (Taylor 3, Edens 2). Turnovers: 18. Blocked shots: 1 (Carter 1).