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Getting In The Zone

WHEELERSBURG — When Tim Kochendoerfer finds his comfort zone, he can put the opposition to sleep.

After a quiet first half, Kochendoerfer found his zone in the second half and scored 27 of his game-high 32 points to lead the Ironton Fighting Tigers past the Wheelersburg Pirates 66-50 Tuesday.

“In the first half I played a little tentative. In the second half I hit my first shot and got comfortable, said Kochendoerfer. “I got comfortable and put everything behind me and just played.”

While Kochendoerfer was in his comfort zone, the Fighting Tigers got into the Pirates’ passing zones. Ironton forced 13 second half turnovers and held the Pirates to 10 points in the fourth quarter.

Ironton coach Mark LaFon said execution was the difference in the defensive performances of the first and second halves.

“We didn’t pick up our intensity, we picked up our hustle. We were getting after the ball, but our three, four and five guys weren’t rotating. We started rotating and getting in the passing lanes and forcing turnovers,” said LaFon.

The Fighting Tigers led by 19-8 at the end of the first quarter only to have their offense disappear in the second quarter.

Wheelersburg (7-10) went on an 8-1 run to start the second quarter and got within 20-16 at the 4:26 mark.

Travis Elliott scored four points to put Ironton back in front 22-16, but Andrew Bendolph hit a 3-pointer and a 17-footer to close the half and get the Pirates within 25-21 at the break.

Wheelersburg used a short jumper by Andrew Stegman to take its first lead of the game at 30-29 in the third quarter. Kochendoerfer — who had 14 points in the quarter — converted a 3-point play and sank two technical foul shots to put Ironton up 34-30.

Three 3-pointers by Tyler Lang and a put-back by Stegman gave the Pirates their last lead at 38-36. Kochendoerfer then hit two foul shots and followed up his own shot to give Ironton the lead for good at 40-38 with 1:37 on the clock.

Trey Fletcher had a stick back and Kochendoerfer converted a 3-point play as Ironton took a 45-40 lead at the end of the quarter.

Bendolph’s layup had the Pirates down 47-42 early in the fourth quarter, but Kochendoerfer drained back-to-back trifectas and it was 53-42.

A put-back by J.P. Taylor opened up an insurmountable 61-44 lead about two minutes to play.

Elliott had a solid all-around game with 14 points, six rebounds and three steals. Fletcher added nine points and five rebounds while Kochendoerfer pulled down eight rebounds.

Bendolph had 17 points, Lang 10 points and Stegman had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

The win was the 14th in a row for Ironton (16-2) and gave LaFon his first career win over Wheelersburg in six tries.

“It was a good way to add to my senior year. We’re SEOAL champs and then this (win over Wheelersburg) makes it a little better. It was good to do this because coach LaFon had never beaten them,” said Kochendoerfer.

Ironton — ranked 8th in this week’s Associated Press Division III poll — will host Marietta Friday in their final home game and visit Portsmouth on Saturday.

Ironton 19 6 20 21 = 66

Wheelersburg 8 13 19 10 = 50

IRONTON (16-2): Malcolm Morton 0 0 1-3 1, Travis Elliott 6 0 2-2 14, Tim Kochendoerfer 9 2 8-10 32, J.P. Taylor 2 0 0-3 4, Erin Edens 0 0 0-0 0, Zac Carter 0 1 0-0 3, Josh Murphy 0 0 0-0 0, Trey Fletcher 3 0 3-3 9, Michael Turner 1 0 0-0 2, Charles Stewart 0 0 0-0 0, Jonathan Norris 0 0 1-2 1. Totals: 24-53 15-23 66. 3-point goals: 3-12. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: None. Rebounds: 13 offense, 24 defense = 37 (Kochendoerfer 8, Taylor 6, Elliott 6). Team rebounds: 2. Assists: 9 (Morton 5, Taylor 2). Steals: 11 (Morton 4, Elliott 3). Turnovers: 16.

WHEELERSBURG (7-10): Coley Warner 0 0 0-0 0, Cole Miller 0 0 0-2 0, Tyler Lang 0 3 1-2 10, Andrew Bendolph 4 2 3-5 17, Isaac Duduit 0 0 1-2 1, Andy Stegman 5 0 5-6 15, Webb Ballard 1 1 1-2 6, Shane Ward 0 0 1-2 1, Aaron Parker 0 0 0-0 0, Tom Graf 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-46 12-21 50. 3-point goals: 6-21. Fouls: 15. Fouled out: None. Rebounds: 9 offense, 19 defense = 28 (Stegman 10). Team rebounds: 5. Assists: 8 (Lang 3, Miller 2). Steals: 10 (Bendolph 4, Ballard 2, Stegman 2). Turnovers: 19.

RESERVES: Ironton 52-29.