Fighting Tigers can’t hold lead in sectional finals loss

Published 3:38 am Saturday, February 25, 2017

Jim Walker

JACKSON — The Ironton Fighting Tigers need to get a new scriptwriter. What looked like a fairy tale ending turned into another episode of The Twilight Zone.
Ironton fell behind, battled back, surged ahead and the watch the surprise ending go awry as the Fighting Tigers lost 58-47 to the Minford Falcons in the Division III sectional finals on Friday.
Minford took a 9-0 lead before Ironton got within three points at the half. The Fighting Tigers then took a nine-point lead after three quarters before cold shooting by Ironton and clutch foul shooting by the Falcons caused the keyboard to write an unhappy climax.
“We just didn’t execute. We had possession by possession, they get a bucket, we go a couple of possessions, they get another bucket. They’re executing every other possession and we’re not getting anything for about six straight possessions and before you know it, and that’s a three-point game,” said Ironton coach Mark LaFon about the fourth quarter finish.
Ironton (13-10) led 40-31 heading into the fourth quarter. Dillon Shepherd made a layup and Simon Thoroughman converted a three-point play and it was 40-36.
Jourdyn Barrow had a put-back for Ironton but Minford made three foul shots to tie the game and Thoroughman converted a three-point play with 2:53 left and the Falcons led 46-43.
Two more foul shots made it 48-33 before Ethan Wilson’s layup got Ironton within 48-45 with 1:34 to go.
But Wilson was whistled for his fifth foul when he bumped Matthew Gullett who hit both free throws with 1:21 left.
Ironton continued to miss shots and the Falcons went 8-for-8 to lead 54-47 with 28 seconds on the clock.
Two late run-out layups set the final score.
Minford was 24-of-29 from the foul line including 13-of-17 in the fourth quarter. Ironton was 8-of-12 from the line for the game.
“They did a good job at the line when they needed to,” said LaFon. “And like I said, they did an excellent job executing their game plan that last six minutes of the game.”
Thoroughman made two baskets and Gullett hit a 17-footer and a 3-pointer to start the game as Minford took a 9-0 lead.
Ironton finally scored on a layup by Andrew Scott off a nice pass from Ryan Bryant with 3:05 on the clock, but Minford led 12-4 at the end of the quarter.
Although Scott, Bryant and Barrow all picked up two fouls, Ironton battled back as Wilson scored nine points and Kyle Adkins drained a pair of trifectas, the second with 26 seconds to go in the half and it was 24-19.
Ryan Payne then came up with a clutch play as he followed up a missed shot at the buzzer and Ironton trailed just 24-21 at the break.
“Foul trouble was the biggest difference in the game. It got us later in the game, too. You can only go so long with so many guys executing at a certain way,” said LaFon.
“I thought the guys who stepped in did a super job and got that lead, but there just comes a certain point you’ve got to have your main guys on the floor when it come winning time and we struggled with keeping that consistency on the floor.”
Wilson hit a 15-footer to start the second half and Bryant’s 3-pointer gave Ironton it was first lead at the 7:03 mark, 26-24. A steal by Adkins and layup by Hunter Humphreys made it 28-24 before Minford scored.
Barrow made a layup and the turned a steal into a layup just before the end of the quarter to put Ironton up 40-31.
Unfortuantely, Ironton was just 2-of-12 from the field in the fourth quarter and failed to hit on six 3-point attempts as Minford outscored the Fighting Tigers 27-7.
Wilson had 16 points, five rebounds and six assists for Ironton. Adkins finished with 11 points and Barrow scored eight.
Gullet had 15 points including 10-of-12 from the foul line to lead Minford. Shepherd scored 14 and Thoroughman added 10.
LaFon was naturally disappointed in the loss but noted the team started four sophomores and also played a few freshmen.
“Obviously, you’re looking at some young kids getting a lot of experience and some of your top statistical kids, so you’re excited about that,” said LaFon.
“There’s a lot of things we’re going to have to get better at that age doesn’t fix. So we’re going to have to get to the drawing board and get things right and we’re going to have to go out on the court in the spring and summer. We have some things to work with, but there’s some parts we have to get right.”
Seniors Barrow, Scott and Raphael Glover were part of the Ironton program that has now won at least one sectional tournament game over the past 17 seasons.
“No matter what the situation, no matter what the last game is, whether it’s as big long tournament run or get beat in the first game of the dag gone sectional you can’t help think about — as mad as I was tonight — you can’t help think about those seniors,” said LaFon.
“I’ll do this again some day, but those guys don’t. You spend a lot of time with them trying to help them become better young men — not make them men — but help them be a part of that. You can’t help but hope for the best and they were enjoyable to be around and I want the best for them.”
Minford    12    12    7    27    =    58
Ironton       4    17    19    7    =    47
MINFORD (NA): Tyler McCormick 0 0 0-0 0, Simon Thoroughman 4 0 2-3 10, Matthew Gullett 1 1 10-12 15, Cameron Dalton 2 0 3-3 7, Dillon Shepherd 5 0 4-5 14, Kelton Kelley 2 0 5-6 9, Breydan Tilley 0 1 0-0 3, Tyler Compton 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-34 24-29 58. 3-point goals: 2-10. Rebounds: 8-O, 19-D = 27 (Dalton 5, Shepherd 4, Thoroughman 4). Team/deadball rebounds: 5. Assists: 8 (Shepherd 4). Steals: 3. Turnovers: 14. Fouls: 13. Fouled out: None.
IRONTON (13-10): Ethan Wilson 5 1 3-5 16, Andrew Scott 1 0 0-0 2, Kyle Adkins 1 3 0-0 11, Hunter Humphreys 1 0 0-0 2, Ryan Bryant 0 1 1-3 4, Joel Blankenship 0 0 2-2 2, Jourdyn Barrow 3 0 2-2 8, Ryan Payne 1 0 0-0 2, Jordan Grizzle 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-45 8-12 47. 3-point goals: 5-19. Rebounds: 10-O, 11-D = 21 (Wilson 5, Humphreys 3, Barrow 3). Team/deaddball rebounds: 1. Assists: 10 (Wilson 6). Steals: 5 (Barrow 3). Turnovers: 14. Fouls: 24. Fouled out: Wilson (4th 1:21), Scott (4th 0:49).

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