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Fighting Tigers drive by Panthers in sectional tournament


Ironton Fighting Tigers’ Caleb Hopper (20) is fouled by a Southeastern player as he goes for a layup during Monday’s Division 3 sectional tournament game. Ironton won, 61-51. (Photo By Josh Wilson)

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

Coach P.J. Fitch doesn’t believe in driving over the speed limit. But if it says 60 miles an hour, then go 60.
Fitch prefers his team to keep going the speed limit. However, the Ironton Fighting Tigers seemed to slip over into the carpool lane a few times on Monday, but then got back in the passing lane as they beat the Southeastern Panthers 61-51 in the Division 3 sectional tournament.
Ironton built a 15-point lead twice in the first half, the withstood a second half charge by the Panthers to advance to Friday’s sectional final at Portsmouth West.
“We let off the accelerator in the third quarter didn’t maintain defensive focus,” said Fitch. “We need to do a better job on the boards, especially against West. They’re a big team. We have to do a better job boxing out and holding our position. They were killing us on the offensive glass.”
Trent Hacker more than held his own as he scored a game-high 20 points and also led Ironton with 6 rebounds and 4 steals.
Erickson Barnes knocked down three 3-point goals and some clutch free throws as he scored 16 points despite being forced to sit out due to early foul trouble.
Aaron Masters added 11 points, Landen Wilson had 6 assists and both Tayden Carpenter and Barnes grabbed 5 rebounds.
Conner Smith scored 12 points and Aaron Evans had 10 for Southeastern (4-16) who has been back at full strength in recent weeks after losing several starters to injuries early in the season.
A baseline shot by Parker George gave the Panthers their only lead of the game at 2-0.
Ironton got 8 points from Barnes in the quarter to take a 17-7 lead with Barnes and Carpenter each hitting 3-pointers in the final two seconds.
“They were trying to take away the inside and we were able to hit some shots from the outside. It was good to see Masters knock some shots down,” said Fitch.
Hacker had a 3-point play that gave Ironton its first 15-point lead at 26-11 midway through the second quarter and a 10-footer by Hacker with 1:47 left in the half made it 33-18.
George hit a 3-pointer with about a minute left in the half and it was 33-21.
Aaron Evans hit a 10-footer and Smith made a 3-pointer to start the second half before a layup by Hacker.
A layup by Aiden Estep got the Panthers within 37-30 but Masters’ trey put the lead at 44-33. Evans answered with a 3-pointer to end the quarter and it was 44-36. But Barnes drained a trifecta to open the fourth quarter and Southeastern never got closer than 8 points.
Barnes converted 5-of-6 from the foul line over the final 52 seconds to erase any comeback hopes.
“They were quick and athletic. Both point guards they had were quick and they did a good job handling our pressure,” said Fitch. “But we battled back and hit a lot of clutch shots.”
Ironton will be a decided underdog against West (19-4) which routed Oak Hill 68-41.
“They are very strong and very tall,” said Fitch.
Southeastern 7 14 15 15 = 51
Ironton 17 16 11 17 = 61
SOUTHEASTERN (4-16): Cameron Hall 1 0 5-6 7, Parker George 1 2 0-0 8, Luke Corcoran 1 0 0-0 2, Aaron Evans 3 1 1-2 10, Aiden Estep 1 0 2-2 4, Conner Smith 2 2 2-2 12, Ashton Allman 1 0 6-8 8. Totals: 15-43 16-20 51. 3-pt goals: 5-16. Rebounds: 14-O, 14-D = 28 (Estep 8, Hall 5). Team/deadball rebounds: 5. Assists: 4. Steals: 4. Turnovers: 17. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: None.
IRONTON (9-5): Landen Wilson 0 1 0-1 3, Trent Hacker 8 0 4-8 20, Caleb Hopper 4 0 0-2 8, Erickson Barnes 1 3 5-6 16, Aaron Masters 2 2 1-3 11, Will York 1 0 0-0 2, Tayden Carpenter 0 1 0-0 3. Totals: 22-38 10-20 61. 3-pt goals: 7-14. Rebounds: 8-O, 15-D = 23 (Hacker 6, Barnes 5, Carpenter 5). Team/deadball rebounds: 2. Assists: 9 (Wilson 6). Steals: 9 (Hacker 4). Blocks: 1 (Hopper). Fouls: 14. Fouled out: None.