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Panthers claim SJI Gold Bracket title

By JIM WALKER

Tribune Sports Editor

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Who said it’s not how you start but how you finish?

The Chesapeake Panthers made a big first quarter stand up as they beat the Ironton Fighting Tigers 74-59 to win the 34th St. Joe Invitational Gold Bracket championship Saturday night at Veterans’ Memorial Field House in a foul marred game.

Ironton was whistled for 25 fouls and Chesapeake was called for 23 fouls.

Ironton center Trey Fletcher had nine points in the first quarter but sat most of the game before fouling out with 7:25 to play. Panthers’ center Colin Kennedy had eight points in the first half and picked up his fifth foul with 7:14 to go.

The game was tied twice in the first quarter before Nathan Copley hit a long 3-pointer for a 10-7 lead.

The Panthers (11-1) went on to open up a 29-17 lead on a 3-point play by Eric Kennedy with 23 seconds left in the quarter.

Chesapeake was 10 of 14 from the field in the first quarter including 4 of 5 from behind the arc.

Chesapeake was up 33-20 two minutes into the second quarter, but Zac Carter made a free throw with 4:41 left in the half to get Ironton within 34-26.

Two foul shots by Brandon Noble and a turnover that led to a layup by Noble pushed the lead the Panthers’ lead to 38-26 with 3:37 on the clock.

Ironton (8-5) was within 40-31 on a layup by Travis Elliott only to have the Panthers come back to lead 44-31 at the half.

Foul shots by Elliott and Malcolm Morton got Ironton with 46-37, but Chesapeake got two baskets by McMaster to end the quarter and take a 58-44 lead.

A layup by McMaster gave the Panthers a 62-45 lead early in the fourth quarter, but three straight baskets by Carter cut the deficit to 62-51 with 4:52 left.

But the Panthers made 6 of 6 from the line down the stretch to spoil any Ironton comeback hopes.

McMaster led the Panthers with 27 points. Copley scored 17 and Noble added 10.

Carter had 27 points for Ironton.

The tournament MVP was McMaster who was joined on the all-tournament team by Copley and Colin Kennedy.

Carter and Fletcher were all-tournament.

Ironton 17 16 11 15 = 59

Chesapeake 29 15 14 16 = 74

IRONTON (8-5): Malcolm Morton 1 0 5-7 7, Travis Elliott 1 0 2-8 4, Zac Carter 4 4 7-10 27, Josh Murphy 1 0 1-2 3, Trey Fletcher 4 0 1-1 9, Josh Glover 1 0 0-0 2, Nick Culbertson 1 0 1-2 3, Trevor White 1 0 2-2 4. Totals: 18-42 19-32 59. Fouls: 25. Fouled out: Fletcher (4th 7:25). 3-point goals: 4-11.

CHESAPEAKE (11-1): Nathan Copley 3 2 5-6 17, Patrick Hintz 1 0 0-0 2, Javon Thompson 0 1 0-0 3, Austin McMaster 9 1 6-6 27, Colin Kennedy 2 0 4-5 8, Eric Kennedy 2 0 3-3 7, Brandon Noble 1 1 5-6 10. Totals: 23-42 23-26 74. Fouls: 23. Fouled out: C. Kennedy (4h 7:14). 3-point goals: 5-11. Turnovers: 9.