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Huntington survives Ironton’s upset bid

Ironton Fighting Tigers' guard Phillip Kratzenberg drives to the basket and draws a foul during Saturday's game against Huntington High (W.Va.). The Fighting Tigers nealy pulled off a major upset before losing 53-51 to the unbeaten Highlanders. (Courtesy Tim Gearhart of Tim's News & Novelties in Ironton)

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ guard Phillip Kratzenberg drives to the basket and draws a foul during Saturday’s game against Huntington High (W.Va.). The Fighting Tigers nealy pulled off a major upset before losing 53-51 to the unbeaten Highlanders. (Courtesy Tim Gearhart of Tim’s News & Novelties in Ironton)

Jim Walker

jim.walker@irontontribune.com

 

Winless and playing an unbeaten Huntington team considered one of the top Class 3-A teams in West Virginia, the Ironton Fighting Tigers didn’t have a chance to win.

Someone must have forgot to tell the Fighting Tigers.

Ironton threw a major scare into the Highlanders as they escaped with a 53-51 win Saturday night.

Ironton coach Mark LaFon said his team has played hard every game, but the effort on Saturday went above and beyond his expectations.

“I didn’t expect that type of effort that late in the game. They showed a lot of Fighting Tiger in them,” said LaFon.

“We didn’t play well in spots, small spots. There were three two-minute spurts that hurt us in the game, but they came back and fixed it. In the past when we had those periods and we didn’t fix it.”

Huntington was just 19-of-54 from the field that included a dismal 4-of-29 from behind the 3-point line. Ironton was 18-of-35 for 51.4 percent and 7-of-14 from behind the arc.

“We needed some help from Huntington. We had to have them not hit shots and in the first half they didn’t hit shots,” said LaFon.

“They were one of 17 (from 3-point range) in the first half. That makes it tougher to hit shots in the second half. We had to have that happen so we didn’t have to mix man and zone. It would have been troublesome for us.”

Tristan Cox had 17 points, five rebounds and two assists, Phillip Kratzenberg 12 points, three steals and two assists, and Joe Bowling nine points and five rebounds for Ironton (0-13).

Chancelor Wooding led Huntington (7-0) with 14 points. Arik Nicks got 11 points and seven rebounds and Anthony Meadows had seven points and six rebounds.

The Highlanders held a 30-26 rebound advantage including 17-6 on the offensive glass.

However, rebounding was 15-15 in the second half. LaFon lauded the effort of 6-foot-4, 290-pound Isaac Sherman for the second half improvement.

“At halftime we had to have an inspirational talk with Sherm because he wasn’t doing a very good job on (Nicks),” said LaFon with a grin.

“And in the midst of that inspirational speech, Sherman found a way to play, honestly, one of the best halves of basketball he’s played since he’s been in a uniform for us. I was very proud of him. A big difference in the game.”

The game began like it would be a runaway win for the Highlanders who opened with a 10-0 run.

But Ironton came back and got within 12-10 on a 17-footer by Desmond Young and a layup by Kratzenberg. Meadow’s layup with six seconds on the clock made it 14-10.

Ironton used back-to-back 3-pointers by Cox and Bowling to take a 20-18 lead with 3:53 left in the half.

A putback by Bowling gave Ironton its final lead at 22-21 with 2:12 on the clock. Huntington scored 10 unanswered points to finish the half for a 31-22 lead, then Wooding hit a 3-pointer to start the second half and it was 34-22.

But again Ironton rallied.

Richard Crockrel and Kratzenberg hit triples and Cox’s second trifecta of the quarter with five seconds left cut the deficit to 43-38.

Wooding’s 3-pointer with 5:27 left built a 48-40 lead, but Young and Sherman had layups and Kratzenberg made two foul shots and it was 48-46 with 4:18 to go.

Meadows made a foul shot but Kratzenberg hit two more free throws and Ironton trailed 49-48 with 3:47 left.

Meadows made a layup with 1:58 to go and Kratzenberg sank two foul shots with 1:21 remaining and it was 51-50.

The Highlanders missed three foul shots but Ironton turned the ball over and was forced to foul again. Wooding hit both shots with five seconds left for a 53-50 lead.

Kratzenberg was fouled with 3.4 seconds left and hit the first shot. He intentionally missed the second and Meadows grabbed the ball.

However, he was falling out of bounds and threw it back only to have Cox grab it and get off a 10-footer that hit the front of the rim as the horn was sounding.

“At the end of the game when I thought they would have us worn down — we’re short two guys and Joe’s not completely where he needs to be conditioning-wise — man they just battled. That was fun,” said LaFon.

“I just wanted them to compete and that’s what they did, and then they competed to win the game. They played like winners. They didn’t win, but they played like winners.

Ironton visits Greenup County, Ky., on Tuesday.

Huntington 14 17 12 10 = 53

Ironton 10 12 16 13 = 51

HUNTINGTON (7-0): Nick Tubbs 3 0 0-0 6, Arick Nicks 3 0 5-6 11, Tavian Dunn-Martin 1 1 2-4 7, Chancelor Wooding 3 2 2-4 14, Junior Howard 1 1 1-2 6, Anthony Meadows 3 0 1-3 7, Jalen Pennington 0 0 0-0 0, Chase Martin 1 0 0-0 2, Deandra Murphy 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-54 11-19 53. 3-point goals: 4-29. Rebounds: 17-OR, 13-DR = 30 (Nicks 7, Meadows 6) Team/deadball rebounds: 4. Assists: 3 (Dunn-Martin 2). Steals: 11 (Dunn-Martin 3, Tubbs 3). Turnovers: 15. Fouls: 16. Fouled out: None.

IRONTON (0-13): Tristan Cox 1 4 3-4 17, Joe Bowling 3 1 0-0 9, Phillip Kratzenberg 2 1 5-6 12, Desmond Young 3 0 0-3 6, Richard Crockrel 1 1 0-0 5, Isaac Sherman 1 0 0-3 2, Marques Davis 0 0 0-0 0, Joe Matkins 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-35 8-16 51. 3-point goals: 7-14. Rebounds: 6-OR, 20-DR = 26 (Cox 5, Bowling 5, Young 4). Team/deadball rebounds: 3. Assists: 10 (Bowling 3, Cox 2, Kratzenberg 2). Steals: 6 (Kratzenberg 3). Turnovers: 21. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: None.