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Ironton falls in regionals

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ senior guard Tristan Cox (22) hits a jumper for two of his 20 points in a 72-51 loss to Portsmouth on Wednesday in the Division III regional semifinals at Ohio University. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ senior guard Tristan Cox (22) hits a jumper for two of his 20 points in a 72-51 loss to Portsmouth on Wednesday in the Division III regional semifinals at Ohio University. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Jim Walker

jim.walker@irontontribune.com

 

ATHENS — The Ironton Fighting Tigers won the battle and lost the war.

The Fighting Tigers let themselves get into a shooting contest with the Portsmouth Trojans in Wednesday’s Division III regional semifinal game at Ohio University’s Convocation Center.

Ironton made 21 field goals to 20 for Portsmouth, but the Trojans were 9-of-25 from behind the arc and connected on 23-of-29 free throws.

Ironton was 6-of-16 from the 3-point line and just 3-of-8 from the foul line.

Coach Mark LaFon said the fast-paced, lock-and-loaded shooting style was not what he wanted from his team.

“We did take a lot of outside shots that we didn’t want to take,” said LaFon. “We didn’t do very good at attacking the basket. I think they only fouled us two times in the first half and a little of that had to do with us. We were taking a lot of jump shots instead of attacking the rim like we normally do.”

Ironton’s penchant to take outside shots became evident at the foul line. The Fighting Tigers didn’t shoot a foul shot until 7:02 was left in the game. Portsmouth had just one foul in the first half and six for the game.

Tristan Cox closed out his career with 20 points, six rebounds and a pair of assists.

Phillip Kratzenberg had 10 points and six assists, Dylan Malone grabbed 11 rebounds and Joe Bowling had two assists and two steals.

Portsmouth (19-6) had four players in double figures led by Kendall Reynolds with 26 points including three 3-pointers and 9-of-10 from the foul line.

Ky’re Allison had 14 points and 11 rebounds while Sky Oliver and Ethan Leonard scored 12 points each.

Ironton finished the season 17-10 and with its 15th district championship, a dramatic improvement after going 2-22 last season in an injury-riddled year.

“The game itself was disappointing. We had a little frustration at the end and that part I was disappointed in, but overall this is one of the best teams I’ve coach as far as at the end of the season what they accomplished from where they started and where they ended,” said LaFon.

“To win a district championship, that’s huge. To be able to play in the region, that’s huge. This group has put a district banner in the gym and that’s seven in 12 years at Ironton and that’s pretty impressive for a team that wasn’t supposed to be here.”

The game was tied three times and the lead exchanged hands 11 times in the first half.

Ironton took its last lead at 23-21 after a 3-pointer by Kratzenberg with 3:12 left in the first half.

But Reynolds answered 10 seconds later with his own triple and it was 24-23 as Portsmouth took the lead for good. A layup by Allison with 16 seconds left gave the Trojans a 29-25 lead.

“We kept getting those, what you call ‘good looks,’ but it’s not what was in our game plan and not what we’ve done all year. Our best basketball has been when we haven’t shot from the perimeter and we just got away from that, and then we kind of kept hoping we going to hit one, hit one, hit one,” said LaFon.

“We got through the first half, but we wasted so much energy with useless basketball stuff on the floor, and Desmond got in foul trouble which shortened our bench and we were very fatigued coming into the second half and that’s what took the toll overall.”

After hitting 6-of-14 from the 3-point line in the first half, Portsmouth came out the second half and made six of its first seven shots and 8-of-14 in the third quarter including 3-pointers by Oliver and Dickerson.

Back-to-back layups by Oliver put the Trojans up 45-29 at the 3:58 mark. Cox took a page out of Portsmouth’s book as he made three 3-balls, the third at the 1:47 mark that cut the deficit to 47-40.

But Oliver’s trey and a foul shot by Allison pushed the lead to 51-40 at the end of the quarter.

Cox hit Ironton’s first foul shot and it was 51-41, but a three-point play by Oliver with 3:27 left opened up a 58-44 lead.

The Trojans spent the rest of the quarter at the foul line as they converted 15-of-19 from the line in the quarter.

Portsmouth (19-6) will play Columbus Eastmoor at 7 p.m. Saturday in the regional championship.

Portsmouth 15 14 22 21 = 72

Ironton 13 12 15 11 = 51

PORTSMOUTH (19-6): Sky Oliver 3 1 3-5 12, Ethan Leonard 0 2 6-8 12, Ky’re Allison 4 1 3-4 14, Alex Dickerson 0 1 2-2 5, Kendall Reynolds 4 3 9-10 26, Hunter Gibson 0 0 0-0 0, Luke Purdy 0 0 0-0 0, Cole Lowery 0 0 0-0 0, Michael Sturgill 0 0 0-0 0, Micah Williams 0 0 0-0 0, J.J. Josey 0 0 0-0 0, Trent Rodbell 0 0 0-0 0, Zach Delotell 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-49 23-29 72. 3-point goals: 9-25. Rebounds: 8-off. 24-def. = 32 (Allison 11, Dickerson 6, Reynolds 5). Team rebounds: 2. Assists: 11 (Oliver 6, Leonard 2). Steals: 7 (Oliver 3). Turnovers: 9. Fouls: 6. Fouled out: None.

IRONTON (17-10): Phillip Kratzenberg 3 1 1-1 10, Joe Bowling 2 0 0-0 4, Tristan Cox 3 4 2-5 20, Marques Davis 1 1 0-0 5, Desmond Young 1 0 0-0 2, Dylan Malone 3 0 0-0 6, Tanner Price 0 0 0-0 0, Raphael Glover 2 0 0-2 4, Jake Isaac 0 0 0-0 0, Trevor Hacker 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-53 3-8 51. 3-point goals: 6-18. Rebounds: 9-off. 22-def. = 31 (Malone 11, Cox 6, Glover 5). Team rebounds: 3. Assists: 10 (Kratzenberg 6, Cox 2, Bowling 2). Steals: 5 (Bowling 2). Turnovers: 14. Fouls: 20. Fouled out: Malone (4th 1:06).