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Classic Comeback

CHILLICOTHE — With apologies to Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

From their worst shooting half of the season to their best, the Ironton Fighting Tigers staged an amazing comeback as they stunned the Chillicothe Cavaliers 59-48 Friday in a key Southeastern Ohio Athletic League game.

Ironton fell behind by as many as 23 points in the first half and couldn’t have bought a basket if their checking account was with the Federal Reserve Bank.

All that changed in the second half as Ironton shot 59 percent and limited Chillicothe to 19 points after the break.

Ironton coach Mark LaFon said there was no secret formula for the turn around.

“I’d like to say we had some great strategy or special scheme, but all we did was go over what we did before the game. We just went over what we planned to do and then executed it,” said LaFon.

Still, the amazing comeback did have an emotional effect on LaFon as well as all the coaches and players.

“It was a tough, physical game. I’m excited about the game and the way the kids played. Our coaches and players are excited. It was a great effort on their part. This game wore me out,” said LaFon.

The win enabled Ironton to open up a two-game lead in the SEOAL. The Fighting Tigers are 10-2 overall and 7-0 in the league. Chillicothe slips to 7-4 and 5-2.

Now for the first half and the worst of times.

Ironton was a miserable 3 of 14 from the field in the first quarter and it only got worse in the second quarter.

The Fighting Tigers missed their first 13 shots in the second quarter and didn’t score until Zac Carter made a basket with 2:10 left in the half.

On the other end, Chillicothe’s scoring slowed down but the Cavaliers still outscored Ironton 11-0 to start the quarter and led 29-6 after a steal and layup by Michael Turner with 2:21 on the clock.

Turner had the hot hand in the first quarter as well. He scored 11 points including three triples as the Cavaliers took an 18-6 lead.

But then came the second half and the best of times.

Turner and Brandon Beverly scored to give Chillicothe a 20-point lead to start the third quarter, but then Ironton went on a 13-0 run triggered by Carter’s layup and 3-pointer.

Isaac Beverly finally stopped the run with a 15-footer and the teams traded points to make it 39-30 at the end of the quarter.

Carter drained a trifecta to get the fourth quarter underway and Turner answered with a 12-footer to make it 41-33.

A layup by Travis Elliott ignited a scoring surge that saw the Fighting Tigers score 17 unanswered points.

“Our kids got fired up but they didn’t lose their focus,” said LaFon.

A key spot in the scoring run came when J.P. Taylor hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game with 5:50 left.

“I wanted J.P. to take the (first) shot. He can hit those and we needed it at that time. The second one was just him,” said LaFon.

Tim Kochendoerfer then knocked down a 17-footer and Ironton had its first lead at 43-41.

Kochendoerfer — who had just 4 points in the first half — scored 10 points in the fourth quarter including a layup and two foul shots with 14 seconds left to seal the win.

After shooting 21 percent in the first half (6 of 28), Ironton made 17 of 29 shots in the second half for 59 percent.

Kochendoerfer led Ironton with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Carter had 12 points, Elliott 11 points and 8 rebounds, and Taylor 9 points and 8 rebounds.

Turner had a game-high 24 points for Chillicothe but only 8 in the second half.

Ironton 6 7 17 29 = 59

Chillicothe 18 11 10 9 = 48

IRONTON (10-2, 7-0): Zac Carter 3 2 0-0 12, Travis Elliott 4 0 3-3 11, Tim Kochendoerfer 8 0 4-5 20, Josh Murphy 1 0 0-0 2, Erin Edens 0 0 0-0 0, Tommy Waginger 0 1 0-0 3, J.P. Taylor 0 3 0-0 9, Malcolm Morton 1 0 0-0 2. Totals: 23-57 7-8 59. Fouls: 15. Fouled out: Morton (4th 0:35). 3-point goals: 6-16. Rebounds: 13 offense, 24 defense = 37 (Kochendoerfer 15, Taylor 8, Elliott 8). Team rebounds: 1. Assists: 14 (Morton 5, Kochendoerfer 2, Edens 2, Taylor 2, Carter 2). Steals: 5 (Taylor 2). Turnovers: 13. Blocked shots: None.

CHILLICOTHE (7-4, 5-2): Isaac Beverly 1 0 0-0 2, Brandon Beverly 3 0 1-2 7, Michael Turner 5 4 2-2 24, Jalen Ragland 1 2 0-0 8, Malik London 2 0 1-2 5, Timmy Dunbar 0 0 0-0 0, Zach Johnson 1 0 0-0 2, Tyler Manion 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-50 4-6 48. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: None. 3-point goals: 6-17. Rebounds: 9 offense, 20 defense = 29 (Ragland 8, London 6). Team rebounds: 3. Assists: 7 (B. Beverly 2, Manion 2). Steals: 5 (Turner 2). Turnovers: 16. Blocked shots: London 5.