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Disappointing loss won’t detract from good season

In any big game or championship showdown, one team will leave elated while the other will sink into the depths of disappointment.

As the Chesapeake Panthers rightfully celebrated their first-ever regional title Saturday and berth in the state tournament, the other end of the spectrum was filled with the dejected Ironton Fighting Tigers’ players and coaches.

Ironton has had an abundance of success with its athletic program in all sports. Just last week the girls went to the state tournament for the third time. The boys were hoping to match that total, but it wasn’t meant to be as they lost 63-47.

Ironton didn’t help itself with a 33 percent shooting performance, but there were other factors. Mainly, they didn’t play well and Chesapeake did.

“It hurts. The kids feel really bad, but they’ll bounce back,” said Ironton coach Mark LaFon. “I think it would have been easier for them if they had played well and got beat. We’ve been playing well. When you don’t bring your best game, you always think ‘what if?’”

Ironton finished with an impressive 21-4 record, an SEOAL championship, and huge tournament wins over Peebles and Eastern Brown. LaFon said a lot of the credit goes to seniors Erin Edens, Jonathan Norris, Michael Turner, J.P. Taylor and Timmy Kochendoerfe, the Southeast District co-Player of the Year.

“It doesn’t take away from one of the most enjoyable and successful seasons,” said LaFon. “Our senior leadership was real good. I would bet we only had three bad practices all year. That’s a tribute to our seniors and their leadership.”

The leadership helped Ironton masked some of its inadequacies.

“This was not the most talented team. Their success was the result of hard work,” said LaFon.

“This group really likes each other. They enjoyed being around each other. I had to run them out of the locker room or the gym every night. They really played as a team and they didn’t care who scored the points. They just wanted to win.”

Today when the Ironton players awoke, they realized the sun still came up. And as they meet new challenges in the future, so will they.

—— Sinatra ——

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.