Ironton falls just short in upset bid of Huntington
The Ironton Fighting Tigers were thisclose to pulling off a major upset.
Huntington has won two straight Class 3A state titles and are favored to win a third. But the Highlanders barely escaped Ironton on Tuesday as they held on for a 58-56 win over the Fighting Tigers in the 8th annual Ironton Classic.
Top-ranked Huntington missed the front end of a one-and-one with three seconds left and leading 58-56. Tyler Webb grabbed the rebound and fed Ethan Wilson who raced to halfcourt where his shot at the buzzer went in and out of the basket as the horn sounded.
“When you’re in a game like that, all you’re asking of your guys is to find a way to be in the game, find a way to win the game. Outside of the ball not going in — it was inches away from doing exactly that — that was it,” said Ironton coach Mark LaFon.
“I’m proud of them. I’m not proud of the fact we didn’t win the game, but I am proud of their effort. They could have quit at any moment in that fourth quarter. It was getting drug out and not going our way. They hung in and had a shot to win it.”
Ironton (3-4) used great patience on offense to get good shots and then capitalized on them. The Fighting Tigers were 21-of-33 from the floor for 62 percent.
Phil Kratzenberg scored 24 points and Marques Davis had 19 points to lead Ironton.
Jalen Pennington had 17 points, Michael Dawson 15 points and Tavian Dunn-Martin 10 to pace the Highlanders (5-0).
Ironton led 29-27 at the half before Huntington came out firing in the third quarter from the 3-point line making 4-of-9 attempts.
The lead changed hands four times. Huntington’s biggest lead was 39-35 but Ironton tied the game at 41 on a triple by Davis who came right back and drained another trifecta with 50 seconds on the clock for a 44-41 lead.
Kratzenberg knocked down another trey with 17 seconds to go for a 47-41 lead but a tip-in at the buzzer by Pennington got Huntington within 47-43.
Ironton led 50-46 after two foul shots by Ryan Bryant, but he committed his fifth foul with 6:10 to go and Huntington came back to take a 56-54 lead on a layup by Barber with 4:14 to play.
“They hit like four out of six shots and they were all 3’s. That becomes demoralizing when you’re tired but they just stayed with it. They didn’t let it go out of control,” said LaFon.
Dawson made two free throws with 29 seconds to play but Kratzenberg’s layup with nine seconds to play got Ironton within 58-56 to set up the thrilling finish.
Ironton was coming off an impressive 57-45 win over Columbus Independence on Monday, but Charlie Large was injured just before halftime and did not dress on Tuesday.
“When you think about what they did last night and what they had to do, a little short-handed, and then we get in foul trouble, and they just found a way to gut it out,” said LaFon. “They played like Fighting Tigers, it just didn’t go our way at the end.
“It’s hard to say I feel good about being 3-4, but I do feel good about the guys. It’s there. You can see it,” said LaFon.
Ironton plays at 5:30 p.m. on Monday against Minford at Portsmouth.
Huntington 16 11 16 15 = 58
Ironton 12 17 18 9 = 56
HUNTINGTON (5-0): Dejon Congleton 2 1 0-0 7, Tavian Dunn-Martin 2 2 0-1 10, Michael Dawson 3 1 6-8 15, J.R. Howard 1 1 2-3 7, Jalen Pennington 4 3 0-0 17, Thad Taylor 0 0 0-0 0, Dewy Brown 1 0 0-0 2, Jaden Hayes 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-50 8-12 58. 3-point goals: 8-28. Rebounds: 12-O, 8-D = 20 (Dawson 5). Team rebounds: 3. Assists: 3. Steals: 11 (Dawson 4, Dunn-Martin 3). Turnovers: 5. Fouls: 15. Fouled out: None.
IRONTON (3-4): Phil Kratzenberg 8 2 2-2 24, Ethan Wilson 2 0 2-2 6, Marques Davis 5 3 0-0 19, Desmond Young 0 0 0-1 0, Tyler Webb 0 0 0-0 0, Ryan Bryant 1 0 5-6 7. Totals: 21-33 9-11 56. 3-point goals: 5-11. Rebounds: 4-O, 19-D = 23 (Wilson 4, Webb 4, Davis 3, Young 3). Assists: 5 (Young 2). Steals: 2. Turnovers: 17. Fouls: 11. Fouled out: Bryant (4th 6:10).