• 70°

Local teams prove area plays quality basketball

So teams in Lawrence County don’t play the quality of other areas? Don’t tell that to Ironton and Chesapeake.

While other area tend to talk about how good their teams are and how tough of competition they play, Lawrence County doesn’t have to take a back seat to any of them. In fact, they are sitting in the driver’s seat right now.

The Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers knocked off the unbeaten Oak Hill Lady Oaks who were considered a lock to make a return trip to the Final Four. And with South Euclid Regina disqualified, the Lady Oaks loomed as the favorite after finishing runner-up to Regina last season.

The Lady Tigers are back at the bottom of the list as they enter Thursday’s state tournament. Of the teams in the Final Four, Ironton has the worst record at 17-7.

Ironton’s opponent Middletown Madison is 26-0, top-ranked and favorite Liberty-Benton is 25-0 and Smithville is 25-1.

But the records can be misleading. Ironton played a tough schedule that did not allow for an off night. The SEOAL had bigger schools and featured some strong competition. The non-league schedule included Oak Hill, South Point and North Adams, all strong programs.

As for the boys, both Ironton and Chesapeake are in the regional semifinals Wednesday at Ohio University.

Ironton (20-3) plays Eastern Brown (15-6) while Chesapeake (19-4) goes against Sugarcreek Garaway (18-5). All four programs have a tradition of success and make deep runs in the tournament on a regular bases. Only Chesapeake has yet to make the state tournament.

If Ironton and Chesapeake win, they will play for the regional title at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, thus guaranteeing a Lawrence County team in the Final Four.

There are a lot of good basketball teams and talent throughout the state, including Lawrence County. This year should go a long way to erasing any negative stigma regarding the level of play here in our area.

—— Sinatra ——

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.