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West tops Ironton in sectional finals

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

WEST PORTSMOUTH — The Ironton Fighting Tigers couldn’t see the basket for the trees.
Playing the tallest team they have faced all season, Ironton had trouble running its and getting good shots against the size of the Portsmouth West defense as the Fighting Tigers fell to the Senators 57-42 in the Division 3 sectional finals on Friday.
Ironton stayed close for three quarters but was guilty of 10 turnovers in the fourth quarter and shot just 1-for-7 from the field in scoring a mere 3 points.
For the game, Ironton had 25 turnovers and shot 18-of-40 from the field but only 3-of-17 from behind the arc.
“We just didn’t execute. Trent (Hacker) rolled his ankle early and we felt his speed around the post was an advantage and that slowed him down,” said Ironton coach P.J. Fitch.
“Hats off to them. They’re a good ball club. They are long and athletics. They had big, long guys and they just swarmed (Erickson) Barnes.”
West 29 rebounds with 13 on the offensive glass. Ironton had 27 rebounds but only 9 on offense. The Fighting Tigers were also an anemic 3-of-11 from the foul line.
“They killed us on the offensive glass, especially in the first half,” said Fitch.
“We missed too many free throws. Against good teams, you have to knock down your free throws and not turn the ball over.”
Hacker led Ironton with 14 points and had 6 rebounds. Barnes finished with 8 points including two 3-pointers and he yanked down 8 rebounds along with a blocked shot.
Jesse Dixon had 14 points and Luke Howard scored 12 points for West (18-4).
The Senators opened up a 14-5 lead after baskets by Dixon and Andrew Jones last in the first quarter.
But Aaron Masters hit a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left and then got a layup after a turnover just before the quarter ended and Ironton trailed 14-10.
A layup by Caleb Hopper put Ironton up 17-16 which started a string of eight lead changes. Two layups by Will York had Ironton ahead 24-23 but two foul shots by Ryan Sissel with 23 seconds left gave West a 25-24 halftime lead.
Hacker had a layup and Masters sank a 15-footer as Ironton went up 28-27 with 5:52 on the third quarter clock.
The Fighting Tigers were down 35-33 after a trifecta by Barnes, but West went up 43-35 on a putback by Howard. York and Hacker had layups to end the quarter and Ironton trailed 43-39.
The Senators were 13-of-24 from the foul line for the game including just 3-of-8 in the fourth quarter. But Ironton was unable to take advantage of the missed free throws due to its cold shooting and turnovers.
Despite the loss, Fitch had some positive thoughts on the Ironton season.
With no returning starters, COVID shutdowns, a lack of size and outside shooters, critics didn’t expect this Ironton team to win five games which made it very surprising that the Fighting Tigers went 9-6.
“We exceeded the expectations just by hard work. This is a great group and I love every one of them,” said Fitch.
Ironton players wore special warmup shirts that were lettered with “Team Kent” in support of photographer Kent Sanborn who is hospitalized with cancer.
Ironton will host Coal Grove on Monday in the season finale.
Ironton 10 14 15 3 = 42
Ports. West 14 11 18 15 = 58
IRONTON (9-6): Landen Wilson 0 0 0-0 0, Trent Hacker 7 0 0-3 14, Aaron Masters 2 1 0-0 7, Erickson Barnes 1 2 0-0 8, Will York 2 0 0-0 4, Caleb Hopper 1 0 2-6 4, Tayden Carpenter 1 0 0-0 2, Blake Porter 0 0 0-0 0, Jaxon Vance 0 0 1-2 1. Totals: 18-40 3-11 42. 3-pt goals: 3-17. Rebounds: 9-O, 18-D = 27 (Barnes 8, Hacker 6, Hopper 4, York 4). Team/deadball rebounds: 2. Assists: 4. Steals: 7 (Barnes 3). Blocks: 1 (Barnes). Turnovers: 25. Fouls: 15. Fouled out: None.
PORTSMOUTH WEST (18-4): Luke Howard 2 2 2-5 12, Marion Phillips 1 0 0- 2, Noah Coleman 4 0 1-4 9, Andrew Jones 2 0 0-0 4, Rodney Moore 2 0 3-4 7, Jesse Dixon 3 1 4-9 13, Ryan Sissel 1 0 2-2 4, Luke Bradford 3 0 0-0 6. Totals: 21-46 12-24 58. 3-pt goals: 3-9. Rebounds: 13-O, 16-D = 29 (Moore 4, Sissel 4, Coleman 4). Team/deadball rebounds: 29. Turnovers: 15. Fouls: 11. Fouled out: None.