After a fast-paced first quarter full of transition baskets by both sides, Ironton coach Mark LaFon gathered his team together during an early timeout and implored his team to get back on defense.
Turns out the Fighting Tigers are good listeners, quickly eliminating the easy opportunities Ashland grown accustomed to in the opening quarter.
“Give them credit, they came out with something we were not expectingm, a little transition game and they got a couple quick buckets,” LaFon said. “We talked about that in the timeout and a little more at halftime, which really helped turn the tables for us.”
With the easy baskets taken away, the tables shifted hard in the direction of the Fighting Tigers as they would outscore the Tomcats 21-10 over the next ten minutes of game action, leading to a 65-51 victory Saturday night at Ironton High School.
“We got locked down on defense,” LaFon said. “It is hard to play defense, when you are not back there to do it. Once we got back and quit giving them easy buckets, it forced them to try and generate some offense, and we did a good job of guarding them ball.”
Not only did Ironton guard the ball, they took it — a lot. Thirty times to be exact.
Ashland coach Buddy Biggs said turnovers, along with being unable get any easy baskets, had a carryover effect on the Tomcat defense.
“It compounds itself,” Biggs said. “You are struggling so much on the defensive end that it makes it so hard to keep that up the defensive intensity and discipline that you need, when you work hard on one end and sprint to the other only to miss.”
Ashland didn’t shoot the ball terribly, connecting on 40 percent of their attempts, but they were just 6 of 18 from behind the arc.
LaFon was very pleased with the way his team was able to defend the perimeter.
“We did a good job of not letting their point guard or whoever had the ball get so deep, that we were unable to get out to those shooters,” he said. “That is why we were able to do so well contesting all their shots.”
Ashland also did a solid job on defense holding Ironton to 36 percent shooting from the field. They also held the Fighting Tigers’ senior standout Trey Fletcher to 12 points on 4 of 17 shooting.
Ashland didn’t quite have the same success limiting the other Fighting Tiger star, Zac Carter. The senior got off to a slow start, but got rolling after connecting on a 25-foot fade away 3-pointer to end the first quarter. The 5-foot-10 guard would finish with a game-high 23 points.
“That was a big shot, even though it was early,” Biggs said. “We would have been tied had he not hit that, and it kind of got him going. He doesn’t need much space or room to get going because he is so explosive.”
Ashland was led in scoring by Dikembe Dixson, who finished with 18 points, but he like the rest of the Tomcats struggled with the physical play of Ironton.
“Those guys are not much taller than us, but they are wider and bigger,” Biggs said. “A little bump here and a little bump there does not affect them as much, but when they hit our guys it does. It really throws us off our shot.”
With Fletcher saddled with foul trouble early, Ironton got a big lift in the first half from Darius Boykin. The senior contributed nine points off of the bench.
ASHLAND FG FT REB TP
Thompson 2-2 0-2 1 6
Friley 3-5 0-0 7 6
Hart 3-8 2-6 2 8
Dixson 8-18 2-2 3 18
Miller 3-6 2-2 4 9
Stewart 0-4 0-0 3 0
Salow 1-3 0-0 2 3
Wesley 0-0 0-0 0 0
Rose 0-1 0-0 0 0
Harshaw 0-3 1-2 0 1
TOTALS 20-50 5-8 24 51
FG Pct.: 40.0. FT Pct.: 62.5. 3-point FGs: 6-19 (Thompson 2-2, Hart 2-6, Miller 1-4, Stewart 0-1, Salow 1-3, Rose 0-1, Harshaw 0-2). PF: 17. Fouled out: Friley. Turnovers: 30.
IRONTON FG FT REB TP
Carter 6-16 10-12 3 23
Glover 0-2 2-2 4 2
White 5-7 2-2 6 12
Fletcher 4-17 2-2 8 12
Stephens 2-3 2-3 5 6
Boykin 4-9 0-0 2 9
Bowling 0-0 0-0 2 0
Cox 0-2 1-2 1 1
TOTALS 21-56 19-23 35 65
FG Pct.: 37.5. FT Pct.: 82.6. 3-point FGs: 4-13 (Carter 1-4, Fletcher 2-4, Boykin 1-4, Cox 0-1). PF: 8. Fouled out: none. Turnovers: 17.
ASHLAND 16 8 12 15 — 51
IRONTON 19 15 16 15 — 65