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Ironton, Chesapeake prepare for D-3 regional semifinals

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ Aaron Stephens (45) gets a put-back basket in a 66-61 overtime win over Eastern Brown on Saturday in the Division III district championship game. Ironton plays Coshocton at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday while Chesapeake faces Portsmouth at 8 p.m. in the regional semifinals. Both games are at the Ohio University Convocation Center. (The Ironton Tribune / Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)


Tribune Sports Editor


ATHENS — Making regional appearances aren’t unusual for three teams, but it’s unfamiliar territory for the Coshocton Redskins.

Of the Division III regional qualifiers, the Ironton Fighting Tigers and Chesapeake Panthers are making their 13th trips while the Portsmouth Trojans are making a Southeast District record 36th appearance.

However, Coshocton has reached the regional tournament for the first time since 1983. They ended their 29-year draught by beating Sugarcreek Garaway 46-26 in the district finals.

Ironton (18-5) will play Coshocton (18-5) at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday in the first game at the Ohio University Convocation Center. Chesapeake (22-1) and Portsmouth (21-2) will square off in the 8 p.m. game.

The two winners will meet at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday for the right to advance to the state tournament to face the winner of the Bowling Green regional.

Coshocton is led by 6-foot-5 Brandon Taylor— a Newberry College recruit who was the East District Player of the Year. Taylor averaged 21.9 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists on the season.

His running mate is 6-4 senior Drew Jarvis who averages 15 points an outing.

“We know they have some size, they’re physical and they play good defense,” said Ironton coach Mark LaFon. “When you go deeper and deeper into the tournament, the competition always gets tougher. We expect a tough game.”

Rounding out the starting lineup should be 6-2 senior forward Clay Turner, 6-1 junior forward Tanner Cognion and 5-8 senior point guard Brennan Bowman.

Off the bench the Redskins have 5-10 senior guard Evan Johnson, 6-1 forward-guard Brody Philabaun and 5-7 sophomore guard Curtis Blake.

The Redskins’ defense has been tough during the tournament. They have held teams to under 40 points in all three games.

Coshocton’s losses this season were to Div. II Zanesville, Div. IV power Zanesville Rosecrans twice, Covington (Ky.) Catholic and Div. I Marietta.

Ironton is led by first team all-district junior guard Zac Carter who averages 22.2 points and 4.2 assists a game. Also on the first team all-district squad was 6-6 junior Trey Fletcher who averages 19.2 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Trevor White — a 6-4 junior third team selection — averages 11.1 points and 6.6 rebounds.

Nolan Johnson — a 6-2 senior forward — and junior point guard Josh Glover complete the starting unit.

Ironton’s bench goes deep with Aaron Stephens, Tanner Dutey, Darrius Boykin and Joe Bowling. The Fighting Tigers lost 6-2 junior starting forward Dion Brown to a late season knee injury.

The second game pits two ranked teams as No. 4 Chesapeake and No. 6 Portsmouth are expected to wage a monumental battle.

Chesapeake features 6-5 senior Austin McMaster while Portsmouth has 6-6 senior Dion McKinley. The two players shared the district Player of the Year honor.

McMaster averages 19.2 points and 9.1 rebounds with 60 blocked shots.

The Panthers’ 6-4 senior Eric Kennedy and 5-9 senior guard Patrick Hintz — both second team all-district — are part of a balanced offense. Kennedy averages 15 points and 7.4 rebounds while Hintz scored 12.2 points and 3.1 assists.

The other two starters are 6-2 senior center Brandon Noble and 6-1junior guard Javon Thompson. The top player off the bench is 6-3 sophomore Chad Meadows.

Joining McKinley in the starting lineup is 6-2 senior guard Wayne Evans who averages 16 points, 7.0 assist and 3.0 steals.

The Trojans’ top defensive player is 6-foot senior Zaide Whitley who averages 9.0 points a game.

Portsmouth relies on a deep bench and rotates starters that include Mason Jordan, Seth Bratchell, Dayllen Carter and Len Collins.