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Fighting Tigers pull away in 2nd half to beat Hornets

Jim Walker

jim.walker@irontontribune.com

 

COAL GROVE — After going to the state tournament two years ago, graduation rocked Ironton and injuries took their toll as the Fighting Tigers won just two games last season.

But this season’s Fighting Tigers erased some of those bad memories by clinching a winning season after getting a hard-fought 61-50 Ohio Valley Conference win over the Coal Grove Hornets on Thursday.

Ironton improved to 12-9 with the win and went to 7-4 in the league. Coal Grove slipped to 11-10 and finished 6-6 in the league.

“We played well. The kids battled against a good team. They secured a winning season, and that’s a nice accomplishment after last season,” said Ironton coach Mark LaFon.

Dylan Malone had 21 points and nine rebounds while Phillip Kratzenberg scored 20 points including some clutch foul shooting in the fourth quarter for Ironton. Tristan Cox added 8 points and nine rebounds.

“Dylan played with a lot of energy. He’s like a hurricane. And Phillip is doing a better at being a point guard,” said LaFon.

“Tristan battled like a leader and we rebounded well as a team.”

Coal Grove was led by Brandon Adkins with 18 points and six rebounds and Austen Pleasants who had 16 points and seven rebounds.

“Coal Grove is a very good team. They have all the components that can make them a very dangerous team.”

The game was tied three times in the first half and the lead exchanged hands three more times. Two foul shots by Cox just before the half gave Ironton a 23-22 lead.

Joe Akers and Adkins had 3-pointers sandwiched around one by Kratzenberg as the Hornets took a 28-26 lead to start the second half.

But a putback by Malone, a layup by Desmond Young and a 17-footer by Marques Davis sent Ironton in front 32-28 as they took a lead they never relinquished.

“Our kids did a great job stepping in and picking up the slack with Joe Bowling in foul trouble. Joe got in foul trouble right away and played maybe nine minutes, so we got great minutes out of some kids who had to play positions they haven’t played,” said LaFon.

Adkins made a foul shot to get the Hornets within 32-31, but Kratzenberg drained a trifecta as Ironton went on a 13-4 run to end the quarter and take a 45-35 lead.

Malone had a tip-in and Kratzenberg was 5-of-5 at the foul line down the stretch as Ironton was able to maintain its lead.

The two teams will begin Division III tournament play this week at Jackson High School.

Ironton plays Wellston at 8:30 p.m. on Monday and Coal Grove faces Rock Hill at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

Ironton 8 15 22 16 = 61

Coal Grove 8 14 13 15 = 50

IRONTON (12-9, 7-4): Phillip Kratzenberg 3 3 5-5 20, Joe Bowling 1 0 2-4 4, Tristan Cox 2 0 4-5 8, Marques Davis 1 0 1-2 3, Desmond Young 2 0-0 1-2 5, Dylan Malone 7 0 7-8 21, Jake Isaac 0 0 0-0 0, Raphael Glover 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-47 20-26 61. 3-point goals: 3-11. Rebounds: 15-off. 27-def. = 42 (Malone 9, Cox 9). Team rebounds: 9. Assists: 4 (Bowling, Davis, Young, Cox 1 each). Steals: 6 (Davis 2, Young 2). Turnovers: 12. Fouls: 15. Fouled out: Malone (4th 3:51).

COAL GROVE (11-10, 6-6): Travis Carey 1 1 1-2 6, Sean Paulus 0 0 0-0 0, Brandon Adkins 5 1 5-8 18, Joe Akers 0 1 0-0 3, Austen Pleasants 7 0 2-5 16, Jordan Lucas 0 1 2-2 5, Isaac Fields 0 0 0-0 0, Jonathon Joseph 0 0 0-0 0, Chase McKnight 1 0 0-0 2, Jake Myers 0 0 0-0 0, Daniel Rutherford 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-51 10-17 50. 3-point goals: 4-20. Rebounds: 8-off. 18-def. = 24 (Pleasants 7, Adkins 6). Team rebounds: 1. Assists: 1 (Paulus). Steals: 4 (Adkins 3). Turnovers: 7. Fouls: 20. Fouled out: Carey (4th 0:42), McKnight (4th 0:17).