PDT Sports Writer
JACKSON — Wheelersburg coach Tom Barrick said he wanted his team to start their second season at 2-0.
Unfortunately, top-seeded Ironton was in the way. The Fighting Tigers sped up the pace in the third quarter of Friday’s Division III Southeast Sectional Semifinal action at Jackson High School beyond the likings of the No. 9 Pirates and went away with a 49-39 victory.
“Obviously they’re very athletic and our margin of error in that game was pretty small,” Barrick said. “We knew that coming in. Tempo was an issue, we knew that at some time they were going to extend the floor on us.”
Despite never taking a lead in the game, Wheelersburg did have it as a 14-14 tie late in the first half thanks to an Eddie Miller field goal. Two possessions later, Trey Fletcher’s free throws broke the only deadlock in the game and gave the Fighting Tigers a 16-14 lead going into the locker room.
Ironton coach Mark LaFon gave credit to the Pirates for their work in the first half. The Fighting Tigers won the Feb. 5 contest 57-35 in Ironton.
“They did exactly the same thing they did at our place, they just did it better,” LaFon said.
But in the third quarter, the Fighting Tigers stormed out of the gates to the tune of a 10-1 run and essentially put the game out of reach. Wheelersburg committed six turnovers in the frame, three of them coming by way of steals by Zac Carter and Josh Glover.
“They are so explosive that if you make a mistake, they’re going to make you pay,” Barrick said. “That’s what they did, they converted those steals into quick baskets.”
The Pirates made one final push in the fourth by getting the deficit to seven on two occasions, the latest at 37-30 midway through the fourth. That’s when Ironton finished the game with a 12-9 spurt.
“Our effort was tremendous, it was,” Barrick said. “(Ironton’s) pretty good, they’re athletic, their team speed is incredible. We gave ourselves a chance, we just didn’t have enough tonight.”
LaFon was glad to see his group respond after the intermission.
“We didn’t get to where we wanted to be,” LaFon said. “We did a better job in the second half.”
Dylan Miller led Wheelersburg with 11 points while Aaron Cowgill chipped in with nine. Fletcher led all scorers with 18 while Carter added 15.
The Pirates graduate Cowgill, Clay Massie, Ross Pyles and Derek Moore. Barrick was thankful for the senior class to stay on course throughout the year despite so many difficult one-possession defeats.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or email@example.com.
Wheelersburg 7 7 6 19 — 39
Ironton — 12 4 14 9 — 49
Wheelersburg — E. Miller 4-0-8, Cowgill 2-5-9, Massie 2-0-6, D. Miller 4-0-11, Moore 2-1-5, Total 14-6-39.
Ironton — Boykin 1-1-3, Cox 1-0-3, Carter 5-4-15, Glover 1-0-2, White 2-2-6, Fletcher 6-3-18, Stephens 1-0-2, Totals 17-10-49.
3-Point Goals — Wheelersburg 5 (D. Miller 3, Massie 2); Ironton 3 (Cox, Carter, Fletcher).
Records — Wheelersburg 9-14; Ironton 19-2.