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Lady Tigers can’t overcome cold shooting in district finals loss

Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers’ senior guard Lexie Arden (44) splits two North Adams’ defenders as she brings the ball up the court. Arden scored 22 points but it wasn’t enough as Ironton lost 43-34 to the Lady Green Devils in the Division 3 district championship game on Saturday in Waverly. (Photo By Tim Gearhart)

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

WAVERLY — The plan was simple. The Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers had seen it many times before during the season.
Unfortunately, this was one of those times it worked and it was more because of themselves than the North Adams Lady Green Devils.
Ironton suffered its worst shooting performance of the season and the result was a 43-34 loss to North Adams in the Division 3 district finals on Saturday.
The plan was to put a big defender on Ironton center Samantha LaFon and get some help to keep the ball out of the post.
Next, try to double Lexie Arden when she gets the ball and prevent her from going off. The idea was to let everyone else have to step up and win the game.
Despite open looks and driving layups, the shots wouldn’t fall for Ironton as if someone put manhole covers on the baskets.
Arden hit 9-of-17 attempts for a game-high 22 points.
However, the rest of the team was a combined 5-for-34 as Ironton shot 14-for-55 or a mere 25.5 percent.
Even worse was the 3-point shooting that is usually solid but was an ugly 3-for-21 or 14.3 percent.
Ironton coach Doug Graham gave credit to the North Adams defense, but he neglected to mention an assist from Lady Luck.
“We didn’t shoot well. A lot of that is a credit to their defense. Give North Adams credit for their win,” said Graham.
“We definitely had a lot of clean looks in the first half. We got down 12 at halftime. They were double teaming (LaFon) down low and we were driving into the paint trying to get some looks, but we couldn’t get her the ball.”
When asked about the loss of the team’s best 3-pointer shooter Riley Scheck who was sidelined with an injury, Graham thought the 5-10 senior could have helped negate North Adams’ defensive plan.
“She probably would have knocked down a few shots for us and loosen things up. But we didn’t make shots. But credit to their defense,” said Graham.
“Sometimes you have nights like that and you’ve just got to hope your defense can carry you through. They ended up scoring 40-some points but a lot of that was when we were trying to put pressure on the ball and they got some easy layups.”
Baskets by Arden and LaFon gave Ironton a 4-0 lead to start the game but an 8-0 run put North Adams ahead 8-4 when Mary Sonner made a layup with 3:20 to play in the first quarter and Ironton never regained the lead.
Arden’s 15-footer with 11 seconds on the clock got Ironton within 10-8 at the end of the quarter.
Arden — who has been battling an ankle injury all season — went down in the first quarter and limped off only to come back a few minutes later.
She injured the ankle again with 6:20 to go in the half after her 3-pointer cut the deficit to 12-11.
With Arden out, North Adams went on a 11-0 run to end the half and take a 23-11 lead at the break.
The Lady Fighting Tigers were just 1-for-12 from field in the second quarter and 5-of-30 for the half.
Wylie Shipley hit a 3-pointer less than 30 seconds into the second half as North Adams took its biggest lead of the game at 26-11.
Arden had returned and buried her own trifecta, then came up with a steal and converted it into a 3-point play as Ironton got down 26-17.
Shipley hit her second 3-pointer and then Evan Williams became only the third Ironton player to score as she made a layup and it was 25-19.
A layup by Braylie Jones had the Lady Devils up 22-19 but Lafon got a layup as Ironton quickly broke the press, Arden made a layup and then LaFon had another layup as Ironton cut the spread to 33-25 to end the quarter.
“I think the score was stuck on 33-25for a long time. We were getting stops, we just can’t get the ball in the basket. We had some decent looks at it. Sometimes that happens,” said Graham.
“I thought we did a decent job handling their 1-2-2 three-quarter press. We just couldn’t score on the other end. You’ve got to put the ball in the basket. You’ve got to punish the other team for playing the defense they were playing and we just didn’t capitalize on it enough.”
Ironton was forcing North Adams into mistakes as the Lady Green Devils committed 13 of their 17 turnovers in the second half.
But each time Ironton got a steal or forced a bad pass, they were called for traveling twice or they would throw the ball away.
“The girls battled back. We cut it to eight or six at one point in the second half. We just couldn’t get enough stops and enough baskets after stops,” said Graham.
A triple by Arden with 1:20 left and a 3-point play by Williams with 1:09 to go got Ironton within 39-33 and there was a flicker of hope.
But a couple of turnovers coupled with two foul shots by DeLaney Harper and a steal and layup by Shipley put the lead at 43-33 with just 30 seconds to play.
Harper finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds for North Adams (21-4) with Shipley getting 12 pionts and 8 rebounds and Sonner 10 points.
LaFon and Lydia Hannan each had 8 rebounds.
Ironton finished the season 22-4 and Graham noted that the senior group saw Arden miss her junior season when she suffered her second knee injury, Lydia Hannan missed her sophomore year with an injury and Schreck missed the first part of the season and last few weeks with an injury.
LaFon — a junior — missed all but part of one game when she suffered a knee injury.
“If you would have told me four years ago this group would be playing for a district championship, I probably would have rolled my eyes at you,” said Graham.
“They persevered through a lot of injuries. Three of the five (senior starters) had significant injuries throughout their careers. They left a mark on me as far as a lesson to teach me and my two boys the way to persevere and be resilient and fight through and work and stick with it because it’s a grind.”
Ironton 8 3 14 9 = 34
North Adams 10 13 10 10 = 43
IRONTON (22-4): Samantha LaFon 3 0 0-0 6, Lydia Hannan 0 0 1-2 1, Elli Williams 0 0 0-0 0, Evan Williams 2 0 1-3 5, Lexie Arden 6 3 1-1 22, Kirsten Williams 0 0 0-0 0, Abbey Patterson 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14-55 3-6 34. 3-pt goals: 3-21. Rebounds: 15-O, 17-D = 32 (Arden 8, LaFon 8, Hannan 8). Team/deadball rebounds: 3. Assists: 5 (El. Williams 3, Ev. Williams 2). Steals: 9 (Arden 5, Ev. Williams 2). Blocks: Arden 1. Turnovers: 14. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: Ev. Williams (4th 0:59).
NORTH ADAMS (21-4): Mary Sonner 5 0 0-3 10, Wylie Shipley 3 2 0-1 12, Karissa Buttlewerth 0 0 0-0 0, Braylie Jones 2 0 2-3 6, Marah Call 0 0 0-0 0, DeLaney Harper 5 0 3-4 13, Faith Howell 1 0 0-0 2. Totals: 18-39 5-11 43. 3-pt goals: 2-12. Rebounds: 9-O, 27-D = 36 (Harper 9, Shipley 8, Jones 6) Team/deadball rebounds: 8. Assists: 4 (Sonner 2, Buttlewerth 2). Steals: 9 (Jones 2, Harper 2, Howell 2). Turnovers: 17. Fouls: 7. Fouled out: None.