Fighting Tigers ousted from tourney

Published 1:01 am Sunday, February 21, 2016

Jim Walker


JACKSON — There’s cold, there’s frigid, and then there is the Ironton Fighting Tigers’ shooting.

The cold shooting was all Wheelersburg needed to get a big lead and then hold off a late charge by the Fighting Tigers for a 57-42 win on Saturday night in the Division III sectional finals.

Ironton suffered its worst shooting night of the season in the first half as the Fighting Tigers made just 5-of-27 attempts including 1-of-10 from the 3-point line.

Wheelersburg was able to use Ironton’s misses to send a man quickly down the floor — the old cherry pick term — as they hit 8-of-11 shots in the second quarter. The Pirates were 3-of-5 from 3-point range to go with five layups.

For the game, Ironton was only 16-of-58 from the field and 2-of-17 from the 3-point line. They were 8-of-13 at the line.

The Pirates (16-6) were 17-of-42 from the floor and 4-of-16 from the arc. However, they converted 18-of-30 free throw attempts.

Ironton (12-11) held a 4-0 lead to start the game and trailed just 7-6 after a 15-footer by Phil Kratzenberg with 3:30 left in the first quarter.

That’s when the offense took a detour south as Ironton fell behind 13-8 to end the first quarter and were outscored 20-6 in the secondquarter.

“I think we made a lot of mistakes mentally in the first half that hurt us. That got us in a great hole. You can play hard and still do the wrong thing,” said Ironton coach Mark LaFon.

A foul shot by Ryan Bryant had Ironton down 18- with 5:10 left in the half but went on an 18-0 run to lead 33-12.

Raphael Glover finally stopped the bleeding with a putback with 44 seconds on the clock.

Although Ironton was down, the Fighting Tigers lived up to their name as they refused to quit in the second half.

A foul shot by Tanner Holden gave the Pirates a 35-14 lead, but Ironton used a 14-1 run to cut the deficit to 38-28 at the end of the quarter.

“It’s easy to shoot the ball when you’re up 12 or 13 and then it starts getting to 20. And that’s what helped them, too,” said LaFon.

“The second half our kids came out and played our game plan the way we asked. We were forcing some turnovers in the first half and then they started running three out with their big kids (getting rebounds).”

A trifecta by Phil Kratzenberg to begin the fourth quarter got Ironton within 38-31, but forced to foul the Fighting Tigers couldn’t get any closer.

“At halftime they could have shut it down, faked it for a little bit, and we missed our first four shots to start the second half form pointblank. They could have shut it down and they didn’t,” said LaFon.

“I’m not looking for moral victories, but at the end of the day you want to know you’re going into battle with some guys who are willing to fight and act like winners and they did that in the second half.”

Kratzenberg had 11 points to lead a balanced Ironton offense. Glover came off the bench to score nine pints and grab eight rebounds. Ethan Wilson and Travis Carey each had six points and five rebounds.

Kyle Davis scored 15 points, Caden Coleman 13 and Austin Lotspeich 11 including 9-of-15 at the line with all but one shot coming in the fourth quarter for the Pirates.

Wheelersburg will play at 3:45 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28, at the Ohio University Convocation Center against Lynchburg-Clay.

Ironton 8 6 14 14 = 42

Wheelersburg 13 20 5 19 = 57

IRONTON (12-11): Phil Kratzenberg 3 1 2-2 11, Travis Carey 2 0 2-2 6, Marques Davis 1 1 0-0 5, Desmond Young 0 0 0-2 0, Ethan Wilson 2 0 2-2

6, Hunter Klaiber 0 0 0-0 0, Ryan Bryant 2 0 1-2 5, Raphael Glover 4 0 1-3 9, Ty Gunther 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-58 8-13 42. 3-point goals: 2-17. Rebounds: 14-O, 20-D = 34 (Glover 8, Carey 5, Wilson 5). Team rebounds: 9. Assists: 7 (Davis 3). Steals: 8 (Kratzenberg 2, Wilson 2). Turnovers: 16. Fouls: 27. Fouled out: Carey (4th 3:40), Wilson (4th 1:01).

WHEELERSBURG (16-6): Tanner Holden 1 1 2-4 7, Kyle Davis 5 1 2-3 15, Tanner Bivens 2 0 2-4 6, Keaton Newsome 1 0 0-0 2, Kaden Coleman 5 0 3-4 13, Daylor Lewis 0 0 0-0 0, Austin Lotspeich 1 0 9-15 11, Clayton Meadows 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-42 18-30 57. 3-point goals: 4-16. Rebounds: 8-O, 28-D = 36 (Coleman 13, Lotspeich 8, Holden 7). Team rebounds: 7. Assists: 7 (Davis 3). Steals: 6 (Davis 3). Turnovers: 20. Fouls: 16. Fouled out: None.