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Blue collar players key to success

They are the ones who get down and dirty. They don’t mind that the headlines go somewhere else. They just like to strap it on and go to work.

“They” are the blue-collar players, the ones who aren’t worried about scoring the most points or getting the most rebounds. Their contributions often don’t show up in the boxscore.

But they are as important to the success of a team as the team’s leading scorer. It’s not that scoring isn’t important, but it is only one phase of the game. And they don’t even have to be starters.

In order for a team to be successful, teams must have players who are willing to accept a role that is suited to their talents that help mesh together for the common goal of winning.

Of the teams left in the boys’ and girls’ high school basketball tournament, there are plenty of those blue-collar players.

One player who jumps to the forefront is the Ironton Fighting Tigers’ Travis Elliott. The 6-foot-2 junior thrives on getting the assignment to guard the other team’s best player.

Usually a team gives an easier defensive task to their top scorer in order not to wear him out. That means the player who must guard the best scorer will sacrifice scoring in order to play defense.

Elliott fits the criteria in every sense. Tell him what you want and he does it without asking questions. And he does it with great enthusiasm and tenacity.

“He is the definition of a blue-collar player,” said Ironton coach Mark LaFon.

The Ironton girls have a couple of similar players in Janie Morris and Alex Taylor. Both guard and rebound and only score when the opportunity presents itself.

“Alex Taylor takes pride in her defense. She got upset (against Garaway on Wednesday) when she came out of the game to rest and (Kristen) Troyer hit a three,” said Ironton coach Doug Graham. “She took it personal. She felt that was three more points than she should have had.

“And Janie was the same way. She strong and athletic and she can guard well on the perimeter as well as inside.”

And then there is Chesapeake.

While Nathan Copley, Austin McMaster and Colin Kennedy score most of the points, the heart and soul of the team is Trent Saunders.

Saunders defends in the pivot, but he can also come outside and guard. He battles for rebounds while his scoring usually comes from the so-called “garbage” baskets. But he doesn’t mind.

Saunders knows he has to shut people down inside and force teams to beat them on the perimeter. The Panthers won the Ohio Valley Conference the past two years and they are in the district finals on Saturday.

Looks like he does his job well.

And so does his teammate, point guard Peter Hintz.

Hintz’s job is to handle the ball on offense and guard the other team’s shooter. And he works hard at his job.

No one job is more important than another in basketball or any other team sport. It takes all parts working together for a team to win.

Just ask the blue-collar players when their done working.

—— Sinatra ——

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.