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Ironton routs Pirates to win D3 district title

ATHENS — A high school basketball game is 32 minutes long. Don’t tell that to the Ironton Fighting Tigers.

Ironton asserted itself in dominating form over the first four minutes of the game and built an 11-point lead that carried the Fighting Tigers to a 47-29 win over the Wheelersburg Pirates on Saturday to win the Division III district championship at Ohio University.

“Very rarely do you say in these types of games the first four minutes make a difference in the game, but really that first four minutes set the tone for the whole game. It put them on their heels and we finished off that quarter,” said Ironton coach Mark LaFon.

“I think the beginning of the game was the biggest part to be quite honest. It was a pretty good show of defense and execution on offense.”

Ironton now advances to the regional semifinals at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Ohio University’s Convocation Center.

Ironton is now 17-9 after winning just two games last season. LaFon praised his team for their ability to bounce back after an injury-riddle season last year.

“The first half I thought we played real well. The second quarter we gave them a couple of layups because of some matchups,” said LaFon.

“The second half we did get a little sloppy. I think a little of the pressure of being in a district championship and a chance to win it from where we came from to where we are now, it was overwhelming for them.

“But I’ll take an 18-point win playing really bad any day of the week. Hats off to those kids. It;s about as emotional as I’ve ever been for a group of kids since I’ve been here at Ironton.”

Phillip Kratzenberg helped trigger the fast start with eight points including a pair of 3-pointers, the latter with three seconds left that put Ironton up 12-1.

The Ironton defense was a key factor in the start as the Pirates missed all seven field goal attempts in the quarter.

“We came out strong and delivered the ball well. I hit a couple of shots and we were on fire,” said Kratzenberg. “

A three-point play by Joe Bowling and a layup by Tristan Cox pushed Ironton’s lead to 17-3 to start the second quarter.

Wheelersburg finally hit its first field goal when Chase Porter made a wide-open 15-footer with 6:51 left that made it 17-5.

A tip-in by Dylan Malone and a foul shot by Kratzenberg made it 22-7. A pair a layup by the Pirates’ Kaden Coleman cut the deficit to 24-11 at the break.

The Pirates used back-to-back baskets by Jacob Spradlin and Austin May to get within 29-20 with 2:01 left in the third quarter.

But Cox made a layup and then hit a crucial trifecta that opened up a 34-20 lead.

“I was just thinking play good defense. Don’t let them score no more. I knew if they couldn’t score, they couldn’t win,” said Cox.

“(The 3-pointer) was just a good play by Phil. He kicked it out and I was wide open.”

Jacob Roe’s 3-pointer with 40 seconds left cut the Ironton lead to 34-23 at the end of the quarter.

Another 3-pointer by Brandon Adams cut Ironton’s lead to 34-26 at the start of the fourth quarter, but Cox and Kratenber hit layups and the duo combined to make 5-of-6 at the line as Ironton opened up a 40-26 lead with 3:24 left and were never threatened.

Kratzenberg finished with 16 points, Cox had 14 points and five rebounds and Dylan Malone pulled down 11 rebounds.

Kaden Coleman had eight points for the Pirates (12-14).

Wheelersburg 1 10 12 6 = 29
Ironton 12 12 10 13 = 47

WHEELERSBURG (12-14): Brandon Adams 1 1 1-3 6, Kyle Davis 1 0 0-2 2, Austin May 1 00-0 2, Jacob Spradlin 1 1 0-0 5, Chase Porter 1 0 1-2 3, Kaden Coleman 3 0 2-2 8, Jacob Roe 0 1 0-0 3, Daylor Lewis 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 11-41 4-9 29. 3-point goals: 3-14. Rebounds: 8-off. 14-def. = 22 (Porter 6, Davis 5, Adams 4, Coleman 4). Team rebounds: 2. Assists: 2. Steals: none. Turnovers: 8. Fouls: 15. Fouled out: None.

IRONTON (17-9): Phillip Kratzenberg 3 2 4-6 16, Joe Bowling 2 0 3-3 7, Tristan Cox 4 1 3-4 14, Marques Davis 0 0 0-0 0, Desmond Young 1 0 0-0 2, Dylan Malone 3 0 0-0 6, Raael Glover 1 0 0-0 2, Tanner Price 0 0 0-0 0, Jake Isaac 0 0 0-0 0, Mitchell Weisgarber 0 0 0-0 0, Kyle Davis 0 0 0-0 0, Hunter Kliaber 0 0 0-0 0, Isaac Sherman 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-39 10-13 47. 3-point goals: 3-7. Rebounds: 10-off. 25-def. = 35 (Malone 11, Cox 5, Young 4, Bowling 4). Team rebounds: 5. Assists: 5 (Cox 2, Kratzenberg 2). Steals: 4 (Young, Malone, Glover, Bowling). Turnovers: 10. Fouls: 11. Fouled out: None.