PDT Sports Writer
COLUMBUS — No team this postseason made Ironton sweat a game out until the final moments of the game.
Ottawa-Glandorf not only did it once Thursday morning, but they did it a second time and succeeded. T.J. Metzger made the second of two free throws with 1.1 seconds left in overtime to lift the Titans to a 61-60 win over the Fighting Tigers in front of announced attendance of 10,742.
“I thought we played with a lot of aggressiveness throughout the game in a physical game,” Ironton coach Mark LaFon said. “We got down to the end (of regulation) with a six-point lead under a minute and didn’t take care of things the way we needed to even though we had chances to do that.”
The lead LaFon referenced was a 54-48 advantage with 56 seconds to go when Josh Glover connected on two free throws. Ottawa-Glandorf raced towards the end of regulation with a 7-1 run capped off by a Matt Kaufman open layup with a second remaining.
“Sometimes I think we lose sight of what a leader is and sometimes I think people think leaders are the guys who score the big buckets,” Titans coach Tyson McGlaughlin said. “Well, he doesn’t make a ton of buckets but there’s not a bigger one in O-G basketball right now than the one he made at the end of regulation.”
Despite a turnover to start the game, the Fighting Tigers had a fast start, making their first four shots and showing signs of their second half form in their two regional games. Ottawa-Glandorf kept within striking distance at 19-12 after the first quarter.
The Titans took their first lead with 3:27 left in the half thanks to a Metzger 3-pointer in the final stages of a 15-2 Titan run. Tristan Cox responded with his only three points in the game to finish the first half scoring at 28-28.
During the run, Ironton lost the services of Trevor White because of foul trouble while Division III First Team All-Ohioan Zac Carter was held to three points on 1-of-4 shooting.
“It did hurt hurt us (losing White), it hurt our rhythm because they did not let up on Zac one bit defensively and hats off for them,” LaFon said. “It definitely changed the game for us.”
Carter felt their long frames made turning the corner a challenge for the 5-10 guard.
“Even when you go to pull up for a jump shot, every shot is contested,” Carter said. “They did a good job of helping and getting back to their man. They all played great defense.”
LaFon didn’t know whether Carter or Trey Fletcher would be the focal point of McGlaughlin’s defensive scheme.
“We’ve seen that all season, one of the two, sometimes trying to take both away,” LaFon said. “Our other guys, the starters and the guys off the bench, have always done a good job where they couldn’t take both away from us. Tonight, they weren’t going to let Zac have many good looks at all and I thought Trey did an excellent job of stepping up and filling that void in the scoring section because he played very strong down inside.”
McGlaughlin explained the rationale for the focus on Carter.
“Every coach I talked to about Ironton made the comment that was going to be the best player we’ve seen all year and we play a pretty doggone good schedule, we play some very good individual players,” McGlaughlin said. “I think I said the best player numerous times throughout the week, trying to just (tick) these guys off. So they rise up to the challenge.”
It was revealed in the post game press conference that Carter missed practice all week with a deep thigh bruise he sustained in the opening minutes of last Saturday’s regional championship win over Oak Hill. He suffered leg cramps during the overtime session.
While the second half has traditionally belonged to the Fighting Tigers during the postseason, Ottawa-Glandorf gave them a taste of their own medicine, building their lead to five, the highest it would get for the Titans.
Ironton retaliated with a 6-0 run of its own to regain the lead but the two teams would alternate possession of the lead three more times before the quarter ended 41-38 in favor of Ottawa-Glandorf.
The fourth was a more condensed version of the third as the lead kept bouncing back and forth, eventually giving the Fighting Tigers the six-point lead with under a minute to go.
White picked up his fifth and final infraction with 41 seconds to go, giving Caleb Siefker the opportunity to knock down all three free throws and cut the deficit in half.
“I don’t know which one is worse, the 3-point shot or stopping the clock,” LaFon said. “That didn’t help us.”
He would cut the lead to a point off a Carter turnover.
Fletcher split a pair of free throws on the next possession to bump the lead to two and force a Titan timeout. Protecting the 3-point line, Ironton gave up the entire paint area, letting Kaufman to break through and make the necessary basket to send it into overtime tied 55-55.
Kaufman described the layup as a stunning development.
“I was surprised, it was almost too easy of a layup,” Kaufman said. “I was kind of nervous on that one.”
The first three points went to Ottawa-Glandorf before Carter tied the game for a sixth time with a 3-pointer. Carter tied it again at 60-60 with a pair of free throws but Ironton would not have the lead again.
“When we got to overtime, I thought our kids battled there as well,” LaFon said. “Overtime, I know all that is, it’s just one or two possessions all that is. Even though it’s four minutes, it doesn’t take much.”
Metzger cleaned up his own mess on the next possession and was rewarded with foul shots. He missed the first, setting up the most nerve-racking moment of the contest as he told reporters afterwards that he no longer had his legs underneath him.
“I was just lucky that it went in and then my teammates played good defense at the end,” Metzger said.
After he made the shot, Fletcher’s baseball pass to Carter tipped out of bounds and ended Ironton’s chances of advancing to its first state final since 2005. Instead, it ended the careers of Carter, Fletcher, White, Glover, Aaron Stephens, Darrius Boykin and Jalen Schweickart.
Fletcher led all scorers with 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field while White had 14 and Carter rallied to end his high school career with a dozen.
“I thought everything went pretty good,” Fletcher said about his offensive performance. “I got in a good rhythm at the beginning of the game and they started pressuring me more.
“Once they picked up the pressure and Trevor was in foul trouble, we needed some guys to step up. They did but we just didn’t get the job done today.”
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or email@example.com.
Ottawa-Glandorf 12 16 13 14 6 — 61
Ironton 19 9 10 14 5 — 60
Ottawa-Glandorf—Kaufman 5-1-11, Leopold 1-2-4, Rosebrock 3-2-8, Siefker 1-3-5, Bramlage 4-0-8, Metzger 7-7-25, Totals 21-15-61.
Ironton—Cox 1-0-3, Carter 4-2-12, Glover 0-2-2, White 3-8-14, Fletcher 11-4-27, Stephens 1-0-2, Totals 20-16-60.
3-Point Goals—Ottawa-Glandorf 4 (Metzger 4); Ironton 4 (Carter 2, Cox, Fletcher).
Records—Ottawa-Glandorf 25-3; Ironton 23-3.