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Lady Fighting Tigers overcome turnovers to win opener, 53-39

Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers’ senior forward Nikki Elswick (21) scores inside while Fairland Lady Dragons Tori Garrett (24) defends. Elswick had 33 points in a 53-39 win Thursday to open the season. (The Ironton Tribune / Courtesy Joe Stevens of FJSphotos.com)

By JIM WALKER

Tribune Sports Editor

The Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers’ first game looked like a teenager’s bedroom: sloppy.

Ironton and the Fairland Lady Dragons combined for 56 turnovers Thursday night. Ironton had 30 turnovers but managed to take a 53-39 win.

“Our inexperience showed,” said Ironton coach Doug Graham. “We had a lot of players who were forced to make decisions at a faster pace than they were used to.

“But we’ll sit down and watch the film, correct our mistakes and work to get better. This team has some talent and athleticism. We can get better.”

While the youth showed, the experience did as well. Nikki Elswick and Alex Taylor — the two returning starters from last year’s Final Four team — pulled more than their share.

Elswick dominated inside with a career-high 33 points while pulling down 16 rebounds, blocking three shots and getting four steals.

Taylor had seven points, nine rebounds, two assists and had three steals.

“Nikki has improved so much from her freshman year until now. She and Alex played well,” said Graham.

“But our other girls have to step up. Nikki can’t do that every night. Teams will plan for her and force the other girls to beat them. We need more than two players doing the scoring.”

Ironton’s size wore down the Lady Dragons and dominated inside. The Lady Fighting Tigers held a 39-28 rebound advantage.

Fairland (1-1) took a 10-5 lead early as Ironton had 10 first quarter turnovers alone. But two foul shots each by Elswick and Taylor put Ironton up for good at 14-12.

Elswick’s putback of her own shot started a 5-0 run to begin the second quarter and it was 19-12.

Chandler Fulks 8-footer with 4:03 left in the half ended nearly a five-minute scoring drought by Fairland, but 4 points from Emily Davis and a steal and layup by Taylor helped Ironton open up a 31-17 halftime lead.

Layups by Elswick and Taylor gave Ironton its biggest lead at 35-17 two minutes into the second half, but Fairland rallied to within 37-28 on a 15-footer by Kayla Swiger.

Four shot shots by Elswick made it 41-28 only to have Fulks hit three free throws just before the buzzer and it was 41-31.

Fulks’ 8-footer to begin the fourth quarter cut the deficit to 41-33, but a layup by Elswick off a pass from Ariel Schweickart and another layup by Alicia Murphy who got a feed from Karlee McMackin opened up a 50-39 lead.

Fulks led Fairland with 12 points while Samantha Lamb had 8 rebounds.

Fairland 12 5 13 8 = 39

Ironton 14 17 10 12 = 53

FAIRLAND (1-1): Katie Fuller 1 1 1-2 6, Kayla Swiger 2 1 0-2 7, Chandler Fulks 3 1 3-3 12, Tori Garrett 1 0 0-0 2, Samantha Lamb 2 0 0-1 4, Kerie Napier 1 0 0-0 2, Lauren Poe 1 0 1-2 3, Taylor Phillips 0 0 0-0 0, Alyssa Hessell 1 0 1-2 3, Briana Dickess 0 0 0-0 0, Haley Woodall 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-49 6-12 39. Fouls: 23. Fouled out: Fulks (4th 7:15), Napier (4th 5:33). 3-point goals: 3-10. Rebounds: 11-11=22 (Lamb 8). Team/deadball rebounds: 6. Assists: 4 (Chandler 2). Steals: 12 (Fuller 6). Turnovers: 26.

IRONTON (1-0): Alex Taylor 2 0 3-5 7, Nikki Elswick 9 1 12-15 33, Ariel Schweickart 0 0 2-6 2, Arden Sparks 1 0 0-0 2, Alicia Murphy 2 0 0-0 4, Emily Davis 1 0 2-2 4, Karlee McMackin 0 0 0-0 0, Torie Klaiber 0 0 1-2 1. Totals: 16-37 20-30 53. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: None. 3-point goals: 1-3. Rebounds: 15-22=37 (Elswick 16, Taylor 9). Team/deadball rebounds: 2. Assists: 8 (McMackin 3, Taylor 2, Schweickart 2). Steals: 11 (Elswick 4, Taylor 3). Turnovers: 30. Blocked shots: 4 (Elswick 3, Sparks 1).