IRONTON It looked as though Monday night’s meeting between the Ironton Lady Tigers and the Ashland Kittens was set to go down to the wire through two quarters of play.
Both teams entered halftime tied at 21, but Ironton would piece together a complete showing in all phases of the game in the final two quarters to earn a 49-37 win over Ashland.
“From the middle of the third quarter on, I thought they really took control,” Kittens coach Bill Bradley said. “They got more physical with us and we didn’t match their energy. I thought that was just the whole ballgame right there.”
Ashland was held without a field goal in the second half until Morgan Bradley broke the ice with a layup at 5:10 to play in the fourth quarter.
Bradley led the Kittens in scoring with 12 points.
Despite Ashland’s shooting struggles, the Kittens were able to stay in the thick of things by hitting five free throws in the third quarter.
Ashland had pulled within five at 31-26 after Mikayla Martin made a free throw with 1:10 to go in the third, but Ironton responded back with an and-one from Lexie Arden who finished hard through contact with 36.6 seconds remaining.
Arden had a game high 15 points, and pulled in five rebounds. All 15 of her points came in the final three quarters, with eight coming in the second half.
“She’s a phenomenal basketball talent,” Ironton head coach Doug Graham said of Arden. “She has basketball instinct and IQ that’s not teachable, she just has it on her own … she’s like a calming factor in a lot of ways when she’s out there with those other girls.”
The Lady Tigers team features a lot of length, and Coach Graham prides his defensive strategy on hard-nosed man to man defense.
Graham said there was “not anything different” between his team’s first and second half defensive strategies.
“Just trying to play tough, physical man to man defense and recognizing what they’re trying to accomplish when they come down the floor, trying to counter that and disrupt their rhythm,” Graham said.
Ironton was able to limit the looks of Ashland’s leading scorer in Julia Parker, holding Parker to five points (all in the first quarter) on 2-for-6 shooting. The Kittens were just 3-for-14 overall from three.
“She’s probably the first one on the scouting report whenever you’re going against Ashland,” Graham said. “Elli Williams did a tremendous job on her tonight: she was chasing around double screens, and fade screens and ball picks and she did a really good job on her.”
The Kittens attempt at a rally were stymied early in the fourth quarter when Mikayla Martin picked up her fourth personal foul with 6:51 to play and had to sit out.
“They really overmatched us once she went out as far as the physicality and the height,” Bradley said. “They did a great job, they did a great job scouting us.”
Ashland (14-7) will play a string of three consecutive game starting on Thursday when they travel to Elliott County. The Kittens close out the week at Russell, and are back at home Saturday against Greenup County.
Ironton (18-3) closes out their regular season on Thursday night at Fairland as the Lady Tigers gear up for tournament play to begin next Wednesday.
IRONTON FG FT REB TP
Schreck 3-5 1-1 0 7
LaFon 5-6 2-2 5 12
Hannan 0-1 2-2 3 2
El. Williams 4-7 0-0 2 10
Ev. Williams 1-2 1-2 2 3
Arden 6-12 1-1 5 15
TOTALS 19-33 7-8 17 49
FG Pct.: 57.6. FT Pct.: 87.5. 3-point FGs: 4-14 (Arden 2-5, El. Williams 2-5, Schreck 0-2, Hannan 0-1, Ev. Williams 0-1). PF: 11. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 13.
ASHLAND FG FT REB TP
Miller 1-4 0-0 0 3
Bradley 5-7 1-1 1 12
Sorrell 2-6 0-0 2 4
Cullop 0-3 2-2 2 2
Parker 2-6 0-0 0 5
Martin 3-5 3-4 3 9
Patel 1-1 0-0 0 2
TOTALS 14-32 6-7 8 37
FG Pct.: 43.8. FT Pct: 85.7. 3-point FGs: 3-14 (Parker 1-2, Bradley 1-3, Miller 1-4, Cullop 0-3, Sorrell 0-2). PF: 11. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 12.