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One Step Closer

ATHENS — The Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers beat them at their own game.

The Sugarcreek Garaway Lady Pirates utilize a deliberate, patient offensive style that makes dozens of passes in an attempt to break down the defense.

Ironton not only matched Garaway’s patience, but the defense wouldn’t break down as the Lady Tigers posted a 31-24 win in the Division III regional semifinals Wednesday at Ohio University.

One of the keys for Ironton was taking a 10-5 lead in the first quarter. The second quarter was a prime example of the game’s tempo as Ironton outscored Garaway 2-0 and led 12-5 at the half.

“We wanted to start strong and aggressive. Getting the lead was the key. They’re patient and methodical,” said Ironton coach Doug Graham.

“By getting the lead with the way they play, it was to our advantage. There were times in the second half when they had to turn their offense over and over and just ran time off the clock.”

On the opening possession of the game, Ironton’s Janie Morris drained a 3-pointer. Andrea Kettlewell answered with a triple of her own, but two foul shots by Nikki Elswick, a trey by Brea Tackett and a driving layup by Elswick with one second on the clock put Ironton up 10-5.

Morris made a layup off a pass from Elswick with 5:27 on the clock for the only score in the second quarter.

“Coach said they match up pretty equal to us. He said we had to play solid and work hard,” said Morris. “Nikki and LC (Lorna Ceaser) did a good job handling the post. We really worked well as a team.”

Alex Taylor made a layup off a pass from Morris to start the second half and then had a put-back that gave Ironton its biggest lead of the game, 16-5.

Kristen Troyer made two foul shot and Hallie Slemmer a layup to get Garaway within 16-9 and a 3-pointer by Troyer cut Ironton’s lead to 17-14.

Elswick had a 15-footer and her follow up of a missed shot just before the end of the third quarter gave Ironton a 21-16 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Ironton began to chew up the clock with its offense. Morris had a layup with 6:20 to play and the next score was two foul shots by Tackett with 2:01 left.

“There was one possession in the second half when we took 2:35 off the clock. We’ve never done that on our own. We were really patient,” said Tackett.

Garaway was forced to foul and the Lady Tigers were 8-of-9 from the line in the fourth quarter with Tackett going 6-of-6 and Taylor 2-of-2.

“I’ve been practicing free throws. I was 20-for-20 9in practice) the other day. I made four with my eyes closed,” said Tackett.

“There was one possession in the second half when we took 2:35 off the clock. We’ve never done that on our own. We were really patient,” said Tackett.

Tackett finished with nine points, Elswick eight and Morris and Taylor seven each.

Sarah Bardall had 10 points for Garaway (18-7) including 8-of-8 from the foul line. Troyer — the Lady Pirates leading scorer — had only five points.

“Alex Taylor did a phenomenal job on (Troyer). Alex takes great pride in her defense,” said Graham.

“Brea did a great job taking care of the ball, Janie got us off to a good start and played a great game. Lorna and Nikki did a phenomenal job with their post defense. I can’t say enough about their play. Rebekkah (Potter) did a nice job off the bench. She gave us some good minutes.”

Ironton will play unbeaten and No. 3-ranked Oak Hill (23-0) at noon Saturday in the regional finals. The Oaks won an earlier meeting between the two teams 46-44 at Ironton and are listed as a heavy favorite in the rematch on the neutral site.

The winner advances to the state tournament to play at 1 p.m. Thursday, March 18, at the Ohio State Schottenstein Center against the winner of Versailles and Middletown Madison.

Garaway 5 0 11 8 = 24

Ironton 10 2 9 10 = 31

SUGARCREEK GARAWAY (18-7): Ally Miller 0 0 0-0 0, Andrea Kettlewell 0 1 0-0 3, Hallie Slemmer 2 0 0-2 4, Sarah Bardall 1 0 8-8 10, Cambrea Schlarb 0 0 0-0 0, Kristen Troyer 0 1 2-2 5, Anya Misko 1 0 0-0 2. Totals: 6-20 10-12 24. 3-point goals: 2-8. Fouls: 16. Fouled out: None. Rebounds: 7 offense, 13 defense = 20 (Misko 5, Slemmer 4, Kettlewell 4). Team rebounds: 2. Assists: 2. Steals: None. Blocked shots: 1 (Slemmer).

IRONTON (16-7): Alex Taylor 2 0 3-4 7, Brea Tackett 0 1 6-6 9, Nikki Elswick 3 0 2-2 8, Janie Morris 2 1 0-3 7, Lorna Ceaser 0 0 0-0 0, Rebekkah Potter 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 9-25 11-15 31. 3-point goals: 2-8. Fouls: 11. Fouled out: None. Rebounds: 6 offense, 10 defense = 16 (Elswick 5, Ceaser 3, Morris 3). Team rebounds: 2. Assists: 5 (Elswick 2). Steals: 4 (Taylor 2). Blocked shots: 3 (Elswick 3).