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Fighting Tigers hold off Hornets

Jim Walker



COAL GROVE — Losing the point guard position has put the Ironton Fighting Tigers in a tough position. Fortunately, they put themselves in a position to win and they did.

After losing senior point guard and leading scorer Phil Kratzenberg with an injury on Tuesday, Ironton recovered and adjusted as they held on to edge the Coal Grove Hornets 42-40 on Friday in an Ohio Valley Conference game.

Freshman Ethan Wilson took over for Kratzenberg and scored 13 points to go with six rebounds. Marques Davis scored 11 points, Tyler Webb had seven rebounds and Desmond Young five boards.

Wilson had a key basket to start the fourth quarter to give Ironton a 39-31 lead and his two fouls shot with 1:36 left put the lead at 42-38.

“For 85 percent of that game, Wilson did a tremendous job running the point. There’s another 15 percent of the game he’s going to have to learn and grow from that because there was no try it and if it doesn’t work Phillip’s going to be the point again. It’s you,” said LaFon.

“I’m not faulting him. I never felt he backed off. He made some mistakes and he owned them. That’s just the position we’re in. I feel good about the fact we came away with the win when we lost our best player, but I don’t feel good about the way we played and not just the point guard position but a lot of positions.”

Daniel Rutherford had 13 points and four rebounds to lead the Hornets (4-8, 2-6). Dalton Miller added 11 points and four rebounds while Aaron Music grabbed five rebounds.

Coal Grove is also dealing with injuries. Starting center Sam Angelo is out with a sprained ankle, backup Jaylen McKenzie was hurt in the jayvee game and Dylan Malone stepped on a basketball and turned his ankle in pre-game warm-ups.

Hornets’ coach Kevin Vanderhoof was pleased with how his team battled through the adversity.

“To play a physical team like that, my goodness. They’re strong and physical,” said Vanderhoof. “I was thinking if we could keep (the rebound difference) around eight to 10, we’d be OK.

“Man, our kids just never give up. We’re 4-8 and we’ve lost a one-point game, two 2-point games, and they come every day with their heads up and working. Whenever we ever get one and get over that hump, we can be a team who gives teams problems. Right now we just need to win.”

The game was tied four times in the first half but a trifecta by Travis Carey gave Ironton the lead for good at 17-16 with 5:49 left in th half.

Webb had a putback and Wilson a layup to make it 21-16 at the half.

Coal Grove came back to tie the game at 27 on a layup by Chase McKnight with 4:32 to go in the third quarter. Ironton went on a 7-0 run to lead 34-27 and a triple by Davis gave Ironton its biggest lead at 37-29.

Rutherford’s putback got the Hornets within 37-1 at the end of the quarter.

Wilson’s layup three minutes into the fourth quarter made it 39-31. The Hornets battled back to trail 40-38 when Miller made a layup off a missed foul shot.

Wilson sank hit free throws but Miller hit a 17-footer with 1:12 left.

After a Ironton turnover, Coal Grove played for the final shot but failed to connect on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“We didn’t take care of the ball down the stretch and they were opportunistic getting the ball every time we didn’t take care of it. That’s the bottom line,” said LaFon.

“There was a lot of emotion in the gym. Dawson-Bryant came with a lot and hats off to them. They played a great game.”

On Tuesday, Ironton hosts Portsmouth and Coal Grove goes to South Point in OVC games.

Ironton 12 9 16 5 = 42

Coal Grove 13 3 15 9 = 40

IRONTON (6-6, 3-3): Ethan Wilson 4 0 5-8 13, Marques Davis 3 1 2-3 11, Desmond Young 1 0 2-3 4, Ryan Bryant 2 0 0-0 4, Tyler Webb 2 0 1-2 5, Travis Carey 1 1 0-0 5, Raphael Glover 0 0 0-1 0, Ty Gunther 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-37 10-17 42. 3-point goals: 2-8. Rebounds: 11-O, 22-D = 33 (Webb 7, Wilson 6, Young 5). Team rebounds: 4. Assists: 3 (Carey 2). Steals: 3. Turnovers: 17. Fouls: 15. Fouled out: None.

COAL GROVE (4-8, 2-6): Cole Gannon 0 2 0-0 6, Daniel Rutherford 5 0 3-7 13, Dalton Miller 4 1 0-0 11, Chase McKnight 1 0 0-0 2, Jeb Jones 2 0 0-1 4, Aaron Music 2 0 0-0 4. Totals: 17-44 3-8 40. 3-point goals: 3-13. Rebounds: 8-O, 14-D = 22 (Music 5, Miller 4, Rutherford 4). Team rebounds: 5. Assists: 2. Steals: 5. Turnovers: 10. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: McKnight (4th 3:26).