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Fighting Tigers wear on 76ers

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ Ryan Bryant (44) drives past a Columbus Independence defender for a layup during Monday’s game at the 8th annual Ironton Classic. The Fighting Tigers beat the 76ers 57-45. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ Ryan Bryant (44) drives past a Columbus Independence defender for a layup during Monday’s game at the 8th annual Ironton Classic. The Fighting Tigers beat the 76ers 57-45. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Jim Walker

jim.walker@irontontribune.com

 

Ironton coach Mark LaFon doesn’t have to worry about his team playing hard. Then again, sometimes coach LaFon does have to worry about his team playing hard.

Confused? Let him explain.

After the Fighting Tigers took as much as a 19-point lead, they let the Columbus Independence 76ers get within seen points before recovering and posting a 57-45 win on Monday in the 8th annual Ironton Classic.

“They almost played themselves out of the game. They played so hard the first half they were absolutely exhausted in that second half,” said LaFon.

“A minute into (the second half) I turned around to (the coaches) and said, ‘Our guys are zapped.’ I started rotating guys in early.”

One player who had to be exhausted after the game was Phil Kratzenberg who never left the floor and finished with 18 points, four assists and six steals.

“(Independence was) up in it, but we’re used to it. We prepared for it,” said Kratzenberg. “We worked more on (being more aggressive) in practice. We started thinking more.”

Charlie Large had 12 points for Ironton (3-3) before missing the second half due to an injury. Ryan Bryant added 10 points and five rebounds.

“I was really impressed with Charlie Large in the first half and Ryan Bryant in the second half did a really good job especially banging on the boards and he got us some big buckets down the stretch.

“Phil was warrior. He just keeps on coming and coming and coming,” said LaFon.

Independence (1-5) had three players in double figures. James Cockran and James May scored 11 each and Jaylen Pellon had 10.

The game was tied at 5-5 when Ironton scored nine unanswered points to take the lead for good at 14-5.

A baseline jump by Kratzenberg, a layup by Marques Davis and free throw by Large opened up a 26-9 lead with 4:55 left in the half.

The 76ers got within 29-15 but a baseline jumper by Large put Ironton up 32-17 at the break.

Back-to-back layups by Kratzenberg and Bryant put Ironton up 41-22 with 3:46 on the third quarter clock.

But fatigue began to settle in and the 76ers got within 43-30 on a 3-pointer and layup by Jahylen Pellon.

“We went through that stretch for about eight minutes — the last four minutes of the third and first four minutes of the fourth — where that fatigue started to set in and we started turning the ball over,” said LaFon.

“But I thought they gathered themselves and got it back together and took care of it the last four minutes. I think we only turned it over one time in that last four and they were coming after us.”

A 15-footer by May cut the Ironton led to 47-42 with 3:55 to go, but Kratzenberg hit a 15-footer and Bryant made consecutive layups and it was 53-40.

The 76ers made three 3-pointers in the quarter, but Kratzenberg and Ethan Wilson sank two free throws each to seal the win.

“I thought they played aggressive and hard and we definitely played a little bit better than the last game, that’s for sure,” LaFon said referring to an upset loss at Gallipolis last Friday.

“Hats off to them. They didn’t quit either. They kept coming at us and they hit some big shots. It got to that point where there was a stretch that if we didn’t get a bucket it was going to get under 10 and that changes the whole mentality. I thought the kids weathered it enough to get past it.”

Ironton plays Huntington High at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the second day of The Classic.

Independence 7 10 13 15 = 45

Ironton 14 18 11 14 = 57

INDEPENDENCE (1-5): James May 4 1 0-0 11, B.J. Smith 0 0 0-0 0, Caron Harrison 0 0 0-2 0, Antone Ayers 1 0 0-0 2, Dana Price 1 0 0-0 2, Less Fall 2 0 0-0 4, James Cockran 1 3 0-0 11, Jaylen Pellon 2 2 0-0 10, James Pock 0 0 2-2 2, Tyrone Flowers 0 1 0-0 3. Totals: 18-57 2-4 45. 3-point goals: 7-23 45. Rebounds: 11-O, 20-D = 31 (Harrison 8, Cockran 5, Flowers 4). Team rebounds: 2. Assists: 4 (Smith 2). Steals: 11 (May 3, Harrison 2). Turnovers: 19. Fouls: 20. Fouled out: None.

IRONTON (3-3): Phil Kratzenberg 4 1 7-12 18, Ethan Wilson 2 0 2-3 6, Marques Davis 2 0 3-4 7, Desmond Young 0 0 0-0 0, Tyler Webb 1 00-0 2, Ryan Bryant 3 1 1-2 10, Charlie Large 5 0 2-4 12, Hunter Klaiber 0 0 2-2 2, Kyle Adkins 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-38 17-27 57. 3-point goals: 2-8. Rebounds: 7-O, 28-D = 35 (Webb 7, Bryant 5, Young 5, Davis 5). Team rebounds: 7. Assists: 10 (Wilson 4, Krazenberg 4). Steals: 12 (Kratzenberg 6, Wilson 4). Turnovers: 21. Fouls: 7. Fouled out: None.