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Monotony sparks Lady Tigers to D3 sectional title

Jim Walker

JACKSON — If this had been an episode of Sesame Street, the Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers would have been brought to you on Saturday by the letters RPR.
Those three letters signify Ironton coach Doug Graham’s philosophy when preparing his team in practice.
Those letters proved to work again as the Lady Fighting Tigers cracked the Crooksville Lady Ceramics 57-35 in the Division III sectional finals.
Graham credited using those three letters in practices for Ironton’s ability to get big leads early the past two tournament games.
“Repetition, preparation, routine. It comes with practice. It takes away your fears and anxieties. I’m big into routines and keeping things simple. Do things the same in game 24 as in game one,” said Graham.
That practice schedule helped Ironton force 19 turnovers including 15 in the first half.
Offensively, the Lady Tigers were 24-of-55 from the field including 7-of-20 from behind the arc.
“The last few years I’ve made a point to work on our shooting,” said Graham.
Riley Schreck drained three 3-point goals and scored 16 points to lead Ironton (19-5).
Haylee Stevens came off the bench to score 14 points including two 3-pointers while Lexi Wise had 11 points.
“(Stevens) is very capable of doing that. She shoots constantly. She’s always calling me and asking to go in the gym and shoot. Hopefully, that will give her a boost of confidence,” said Graham.
Wise — who also had six rebounds and four steals — reached a milestone with 3:29 left in the third quarter when she got a layup off a pass from Lexie Arden that not only gave Ironton a 39-12 lead but enabled her to record the 1,000th point of her career.
“It feels great. I put in a lot of work in,” said Wise who also racked up 1,000 career kills in her volleyball career.
“I kept looking at the score. I felt a lot of the pressure. I knew every game could be my last game. But I’ve always been a team player and I knew I would get it the next game.”
Wise lives around the corner from Graham and the Ironton coach has watched her grow up since she was in the sixth grade.
“She is a tremendous athlete-student. It’s been a joy to see her grow. I’ve been fortunate to be at Ironton and coach players like her.”
Crooksville (9-14) was led by Carson Miller with 20 points — 12 in the second half including 10 in the fourth quarter against Ironton’s second unit.
The Lady Ceramics were coming off a 58-57 overtime upset win over Nelsonville-York as Miller scored 32 points.
Ironton took a 12-2 first quarter lead as Schreck hit a 3-pointer to start and end the quarter with Wise and Stevens also hitting 3-pointers between.
Schreck hit back-to-back trifectas that opened up a 25-4 lead with 4:05 left in the half. Elli Williams got a layup and Stevens scored off a steal and assist by Arden to make it 27-4.
Although Arden was nine points below her average, she also had seven assists, four rebounds, two steals and three blocked shots.
Miller scored but Stevens hit a 19-footer and Lydia Hannan had a putback at the buzzer for a 33-8 halftime lead.
After Wise reached her milestone, Arden hit a pair of baskets including a 13-footer that extended the lead to 45-14 at the end of the quarter.
Ironton will now play North Adams at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday in the district semifinals at the Waverly downtown arena.
A Lady Tigers win would give Graham his 200th career victory during his 12-year career — all at Ironton. He is currently 199-89.
Crooksville    2    6    6    21    =    35
Ironton       12    21    12    12    =    57
CROOKSVILLE (9-14): Carson Miller 8 0 4-6 20, Ava Finck 1 2 0-0 8, Lakyn German 0 1 0-0 3, Kenzie Leroy 0 0 0-0 0, Daralyn Ater 0 0 2-2 2, Grace Schooley 1 00-0 2. Totals: 13-40 6-8 35. 3-pt goals: 3-15. Rebounds: 10-O, 18-D = 28 (Miller 8, Leroy 4). Team rebounds: 6. Assists: 1. Steals: 6 (Miller 2). Turnovers: 19. Fouls: 11. Fouled out: Ater (4th 0:36).
IRONTON (19-5): Riley Schreck 1 4 2-2 16, Lexi Wise 4 1 0-2 11, Lydia Hannan 1 0 0-0 2, Elli Williams 1 00-0 2, Lexie Arden 3 0 0-0 6, Haylee Stevens 4 2 0-0 14, Katie Boyer 0 0 0-0 0, Sophie Caines 2 0 0-0 4, Kameren Arden 0 0 0-0 0, Lilly Zornes 1 0 0-0 2. Totals: 24-55 2-4 57. 3-pt goals: 7-20. Rebounds: 11-O, 19-D = 30 (Wise 6, L. Arden 4, Hannan 4, Williams 4). Team rebounds: 10. Assists: 14 (L. Arden 7). Steals: 10 (Wise 4, Stevens 3). Turnovers: 14. Fouls: 10. Fouled out: None.