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Realizing A Dream

Brea Tackett admits she’s no Lou Holtz or Knute Rockne when it comes to inspirational speeches, but she doesn’t mind using them to make her point.

The Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers’ senior point guard spent Friday night searching for some inspirational speeches to text her teammates in an effort get an edge for the Division III regional championship game on Saturday afternoon.

Her efforts must have made an impression as Ironton upset unbeaten and No. 3 ranked Oak Hill 43-31 to win the regional title.

“I couldn’t sleep. I was up all night watching YouTube looking for speeches to get me pumped up. I sent them to all the players to get them pumped up,” said Tackett.

“Making the state tournament has been a dream since I was little. I remember Mandi (Boykin) and that group in the state tournament. I couldn’t wait for my chance to make it.”

Senior forward Janie Morris got her message from Tackett and said it did help, but it was only a small part of the team’s huge win over Oak Hill.

“Hard work and dedication goes a long way. We focused on our defense in practice and kept them out of the paint and contested their 3’s. It worked for the most part,” said Morris.

This will be the Lady Tigers third trip to the state tournament and first since the 2004-05 season. They play another powerhouse in fourth-ranked Middletown Madison who is 26-0.

And the fact is, no one expected Ironton to make the trip this season nor do many fans and pundits give the Lady Tigers much of a chance in the four-team field.

Except for the Lady Tigers, that is.

“It’s exciting,” said Ironton coach Doug Graham. “Oak Hill went to the state last year and played (South Euclid) Regina. Both of them are out of it now, so I think we have a chance.”

Senior forward Lorna Ceaser averages 10 points a game but failed to score in the win over Oak Hill. That didn’t bother Ceaser who was part of an aggressive defense that held Oak Hill to 31 points, well below their season average of 75 points a game.

Ceaser said the team takes more pride in defense than offense.

“I don’t care how many points I score. The points on the scoreboard are all that really count no matter who scores them,” said Ceaser. “We just wanted to win and get to the state.

“It’s all surreal. I think 10 years from now I’ll look back and realize what kind of an experience it was. We just want to set an example for the younger girls, make a name of our program and keep the tradition going.”

Senior forward Emily Lilly is the swingman inside who backs up Ceaser and junior center Nikki Elswick. Lilly has no problem with her role as long as it helps the team win.

“My role is to give Nikki and LC a break, box out, rebound and play defense. I know my role. We all do,” said Lilly.

“All the seniors are so excited to go to the state. Ever since our freshman year we’ve been talking about going to the state. People didn’t believe we could, but we proved them wrong.”