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Ironton faces Trojans in regionals

Ironton senior guard Johnny Johnson cuts down a piece of the net after the Fighting Tigers won the Division III district title. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Ironton senior guard Johnny Johnson cuts down a piece of the net after the Fighting Tigers won the Division III district title. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Jim Walker

jim.walker@irontontribune.com

 

ATHENS — The Ironton Fighting Tigers know the Portsmouth Trojans very well. That doesn’t make their task any easier.

After winning its 15th district title on Saturday, Ironton (17-9) will now play a familiar foe in Portsmouth (18-6) as the teams meet at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Ohio University’s Convocation Center in the Division III regional semifinals.

The first game matches Columbus Eastmoor (15-11) and Belmont Union Local (24-2) at 6:15 p.m.

The winners meet at 7 p.m. Saturday for the regional title and a berth in the state semifinals at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, at the Schottenstein Center on the campus of Ohio State University.

Ironton lost at Portsmouth 41-36 early in the year but won the rematch at home 57-46.

“We each won on our own floor. This is s neutral site and Portsmouth has had a lot of success at the Convo,” said Ironton coach Mark LaFon. “We’ll have to play a great game on both ends of the floor.”

Portsmouth — with 37 district titles — is led by 6-foot-2 Ky’re Allison with an 18.1 scoring average that earned him the Southeast District Player of the Year honors.

The Trojans’ 6-foot senior point guard Sky Oliver is next on the team with a 13.5 scoring averages.

Rounding out the starting lineup is 6-3 sophomore Kendall Reynolds, 6-3 senior center Alex Dickerson and 6-foot junior guard Ethan Leonard.

“Portsmouth has five players who can hit the 3-pointer, but they can also drive to the basket. They put a lot of pressure on your defense and make it tough to match up with them,” said LaFon.

Ironton will starter Tristan Cox who leads the team with a 14.8 scoring average, Joe Bowling with 10 points a game, Phillip Kratzenberg at 10.15 points a game, Marques Davis and Desmond Young.

A key player off the bench is Dylan Malone who averages 11.5 points and 10 rebounds a game.

In the first game Wednesday, the Union Local Jets make the school’s first-ever regional tournament appearance as they face the speedy and athletic pressure-style game of the Eastmoor Warriors.

Union Local is led by Eastern District first team selection Kaleb McDiffitt, a 5-foot-7 junior who averages 17.2 points a game. He gets help from Kolton McKivitz, David Paulick, Gavin Porter, Joel Mott and Trenton Tipton.

McDiffitt has hit a school record 75 3-pointers this season. The 6-4 Tipton averages 14 points and six rebounds as a swingman.

The center is the 6-4 Paulick who averages 7.7 points and 6.3 rebounds. McKivitz — who has signed to play football at West Virginia — averages 6.8 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Porter is the team’s top defender who averages 8.5 points, four rebounds, 2.3 stals and six assists.

Off the bench are Mott who shoots 45 percent from 3-point range and Colton Burnheimer with a 3.4 scoring average.

The Warriors are led by point guard Xavier Holston-Sims with a 9.5 scoring average and senior Jalen Lewis with a 16.5 points per game.

Inside is 6-5 Tariq Brown who averages 4.0 a game and 6-3 Isaiah Harrison with a 5.2 average. Both are freshmen.

The fifth starter is 6-3 junior Oseratain Onaiwu with 10.3 points per game.

Eastmoor and Ironton have a similar opponent. Ironton lost 54-44 to Columbus South while Eastmoor split their series, winning 64-57 before losing 63-52.