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Everything goes bad for Tigers

Ironton’s Zac Carter drives to the basket Saturday. The Ironton Fighting Tigers fell 58-52 to the Wheelersburg Pirates in the Division III district championship.

ATHENS — Bad start, bad finish, bad defense. That’s not good.

Thus it was for the Ironton Fighting Tigers as they fell 58-52 to the Wheelersburg Pirates in the Division III district championship Saturday at Ohio University.

Ironton allowed 19 points in the first quarter and committed five turnovers.

Down the stretch, Ironton was only 5 of 16 from the field and the Pirates converted 8 of 13 at the foul line to preserve the win.

“The bottom line, if you can’t play defense you can’t win,” said Ironton coach Mark LaFon. “We scored enough points to win a district final. We didn’t do a good job defensively or creating open shots.”

The Pirates (18-5) got off to their good start thanks to the hot hand of Webb Ballard who hit his first six shots of the game including five in the first quarter. He scored 12 points in the first quarter with one goal coming from beyond the 3-point arc.

Ironton had an 11-7 lead with 5:26 left in the first quarter after two foul shots by Travis Elliott for its biggest lead, and a putback by Trey Fletcher with 1:49 left in the quarter gave Ironton its last lead at 15-14.

“Ballard kept hitting shots and that made it hard to zone them,” said LaFon. “When you start bad, it’s hard to come back and even things out. But hats off to Wheelersburg.”

They had a good game plan and they stuck with it.”

A 15-footer by Ballard put the Pirates up 16-15 and they never trailed.

Wheelersburg stretched its lead to 29-19 with 2:30 left in the half on a layup by Shane Ward, but Ironton got within 31-25 at the half when Zac Carter hit two foul shots and then stole the ball and raced to the other end for a layup with 18 seconds on the clock.

Carter drained a triple and Fletcher had a layup as Ironton got within 33-30 to start the second half.

The Pirates went back in front by 10 on two foul shots by Andy Stegman with 3:01 on the clock as he hit two free throws.

Stegman had 11 points and eight rebounds with nine points and seven boards coming in the second half.

“Josh Murphy did a good job defensively on Stegman, but we had to trade offense for defense to try and get back in the game,” said LaFon.

A layup by Flethcer and a foul shot by Carter cut the deficit to 45-37 to end the third quarter.

A steal and layup by Tanner Dutey and a layup by Trevor White and a putback by Elliott cut the Pirates’ lead to 45-43 to start the fourth quarter.

White made a layup and two foul shots with 3:51 left that got Ironton within 48-47, but Ballard made two free throws and Ward a layup as the Pirates went back in front 52-47 with 2:32 left.

White followed up a shot with 2:05 left to make it 52-49, but Ironton could get no closer as the Pirates hit half of 10 free throws attempts over the final 1:22.

Carter led Ironton with 18 points with Fletcher added 10 points and six rebounds. White had nine points and nine rebounds.

Ballard finished with 19 for the Pirates.

Ironton 17 8 12 15 = 52

Wheelersburg 19 12 14 13 = 58

IRONTON (14-8): Malcolm Morton 0 1 1-3 4, Travis Elliott 1 0 5-7 7, Zac Carter 5 1 5-6 18, Josh Murphy 0 0 0-0 0, Trey Fletcher 5 0 0-0 10, Trevor White 5 0 3-4 9, Nick Culbertson 1 0 0-0 2, Tanner Dutey 1 0 0-0 2, Nolan Johnson 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-47 14-20 52. Fouls 17. Fouled out: None. Three-point goals: 2-12. Rebounds: 13 offense, 17 defense = 30 (White 9, Fletcher 6). Teams Rebounds: 2. Assists: 6 (Carter 2, Morton 2). Steals: 8 (Carter 3). Turnovers: 10.

WHEELERSBURG (18-5): Totals: Austin McBee 0 1 0-0 3, Brandon Schankweiler 2 0 2-2 6, Webb Ballard 4 2 5-7 21, Shane Ward 5 0 0-1 10, Andrew Stegman 3 0 5-7, Dylan Miller 1 0 4-6 6, Clay Massie 0 1 0-1 3, Andy Sloan 0 0 0-0 0, Eddie Miller 0 0 0-0 0. Fouls 17. Fouled out: McBee (4th :25). Three-point goals: 4-11. Rebounds: 6 offense, 19 defense = 25 (Stegman 8, Ballard 5, Ward 4). Teams Rebounds: 4. Assists: 5 (McBee 2, Shankweiler 2). Steals: 4 (Stegman 2). Turnovers: 13.