Ironton locks down on Eastern offense, 56-41
ATHENS — The Ironton Fighting Tigers are firm believers that a good defense can stop a good offense.
The Eastern Warriors were probably hearing that Monkees’ song “I’m A Believer” all the way home.
The third-seeded Warriors boasted a balanced offense with five capable scorers and the best record in the Division 3 Southeast District entering the district semifinals on Sunday at the Ohio University Convocation Center.
But the 11th-seeded Fighting Tigers threw a defensive blanket on the Warriors high-powered offense and held them to a 15-for-51 shooting performance or just 29 percent as they pulled off a convincing 56-41 upset win.
Conversely, the Fighting Tigers were 18-of-37 for 48.6 percent including 7-of-15 from the arc and 13-of-19 at the foul line.
“We just stayed solid defensively. Our game plan defensively was to make them shoot over a contested shot, five guys box out and go get it and then grind it out on offense the way we did it all year,” said Ironton coach P.J. Fitch.
Another key for Ironton was a 39-24 rebound advantage that included 34 defensive rebounds.
“Our game plan going in was to finish defensive possessions and that was with the rebound,” said Fitch.
“Other teams we play, we watch Reid (Carrico) go get the rebound because he’s just so athletic and strong. But Eastern Brown is a different animal. They’ve got five guys going to the glass at all times and we did a really good job of boxing out and then going and getting (the rebound).”
Ironton (13-10) had the balanced offense as Jordan Grizzle scored 17 points, Carrico and Trent Hacker 14 each and Gage Salyers added 10 points.
Carrico had 11 rebounds, Salyers 7 and Grizzle 5.
Titus Burns scored 14 points, Trent Hundley 11 points and Colton Vaughn had 8 rebounds to pace Eastern.
Hundley hit a 3-pointer to start the game as Eastern got what proved to be its only lead of the game.
Ironton then began to “bombs away” as Jordan Grizzle hit a pair of trifectas while Gage Salyers and Reid Carrico drained treys and then Trent Hacker hit a long-range buzzer-beater for a 15-3 lead.
Each team scored 8 points in the second quarter with Grizzle draining two more 3-pointers including one at the 3-11 mark that made it 23-10.
A foul shot by Ethan Daniels got Eastern with 21 seconds left in the half and it was 23-11 at the break.
Ironton hit 7-of-11 shots from the arc in the first half.
Carrico drove for a layup and Salyers turned a steal into a layup for Ironton’s biggest lead to that point in the game at 27-11 lead to start the second half.
Eastern (22-2) battled back on a 3-pointer by Ryan Boone, a steal and layup by Dustin Jimison and a foul shot by Hundley that cut the spread to 31-23 with 3:52 on the third quarter clock.
But a 3-point play by Hacker and a layup by Salyers with 20 seconds to go in the quarter put Ironton ahead 38-27.
“We talked at halftime not to fall in love with (the 3-pointer) because it went early and we’re glad it went early because it gave us a little bit of a cushion. They’re a very good ball club and a very explosive ball club. We knew they were going to close out hard and contest,” said Fitch.
Ironton’s momentum continued into the start of the fourth quarter.
Collin Freeman sank a free throw, Carrico made two foul shots, Grizzle got three more and Carrico followed up his own shot and suddenly it was 46-27 5:37 to play.
Hundley’s 3-pointer ended the run and a free throw by Titus Burns made it 46-31. But Ironton answered as Salyers drilled a 15-footer and Hacker made a layup with 3:15 left and it was 50-31.
Burns hit a 3-pointer only to have it negated as Carrico converted a 3-point play and it was 55-34 with 2:47 to play.
“We did enough scouting and film work that we knew all their stuff. We had all week to prep. We had a scout team that literally ran their offense over and over and over. Our kids knew exactly what was coming,” said Fitch.
UP NEXT: Ironton plays Zane Trace in a regular season rematch at 8 p.m. on Friday in the district finals at Ohio University.
Ironton lost at Zane Trace 54-50 in the first meeting.
Ironton 15 8 15 18 = 56
Eastern 3 8 16 14 = 41
IRONTON (13-10): Gage Salyers 3 1 1-2 10, Jordan Grizzle 0 4 5-6 17, Reid Carrico 4 1 3-5 14, Collin Freeman 0 0 1-2 1, Trent Milleson 0 0 0-0 0, Trent Hacker 4 1 3-4 14, Landon Wilson 0 0 0-0 0, Brayden Easterling 0 0 0-0 0, Christian Wright 0 0 0-0 0, Cameron Deere 0 0 0-0 0, Tayden Carpenter 0 0 0-0 0, Will York 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-37 13-19 56. 3-pt goals: 7-15. Rebounds: 4-O, 35-D = 39 (Carrico 11, Salyers 7, Grizzle 5). Team/deadball rebounds: 4. Assists: 10 (Carrico 4, Grizzle 2, Freeman 2). Steals: 3 (Salyers 2). Fouls: 16. Fouled out: None.
EASTERN BROWN (22-2): Ryan Boone 1 1 0-1 5, Luke Garrett 0 0 0-0 0, Colton Vaughn 3 0 2-3 8, Titus Burns 4 1 3-5 14, Trent Hundley 2 2 1-2 11, Ethan Daniels 0 0 1-2 1, Dustin Jimison 1 0 0-0 2, Landyn Pickerill 0 0 0-0 0, Ian Wiles 0 0 0-0 0, Christian Amburgey 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-51 7-11 41. 3-pt goals: 4-19. Rebounds: 8-O, 16-D = 24 (Vaughn 8). Team/deadball rebounds: 3. Assists: 2. Steals: 9 (Vaughn 3, Hundley 2, Burns 2). Turnovers: 7. Fouls: 19. Fouled out: None.
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