Tigers try for regional title
ATHENS, Ohio -- Ironton and Oak Hill will meet for the boys Ohio Division III regional title and berth in next week's state tournament at 7 p.m. Saturday at Ohio University's Convocation Center.
The teams have displayed contrasting styles of play to get within a game of Columbus.
The Fighting Tigers (22-4) , after getting by Wheelersburg 49-39 in their first tournament game, have been up-tempo in wins over North Adams (80-33), Zane Trace (69-45) and Martins Ferry (85-54) in Wednesday's semifinal round at the Convo.
"When you get to the regional finals, everybody's playing at their best, you've got two great teams battling it out," Ironton coach Mark LaFon said. "We'll have to make sure our prep work is right as coaches and our kids have to relax and play, have confidence that they can accomplish the different roles that they have to play during a ball game."
The Oaks (22-4) have done it with their trademarks -- defense and patience on offense. They beat South Point (49-43), Meigs (49-32), Sardinia Eastern (57-39) and Piketon (46-44) in the other semifinal Wednesday. Piketon had a chance to tie in the closing seconds, but Kyle Love and Luke Hammond blocked back-to-back shots in the lane and the Oaks moved on.
"It still comes down to the same thing where we've won all year, with our defense," Oak Hill coach Norm Persin said. "...We closed out real good and Luke made a good block and we got the rebound."
On the season, Oak Hill has allowed 60 or more points just four times.
Ironton features speed in 5-10 guard Zac Carter, the Southeast District Division IIII Player of the Year, and 6-6 Trey Fletcher and 6-4 Trevor White in the frontcourt. Carter hit for 37 in the win over Martins Ferry and Fletcher had 26.
Oak Hill's defense forced Piketon into a 1-for-11 shooting night from three point range. The Redstreaks missed their first 10.
Drew Haislop led the Oaks with 11 points and Kyle Love added 10. They took 11 shots from behind the arc and made just three. Persin, who coached at Chesapeake for 21 years before moving to Oak Hill, said his team's success isn't based on long-range shooting."
"I told (the kids), they cannot guard us in our offense," Persin said. "They can't guard us when we kept cutting. When we kept cutting, we have layups."
"The situation with us is that we don't want to go home. In the last three games, we've been underdogs and we're going to be underdogs Saturday night again."
The two teams know each other well, but have met only twice. Ironton eliminated Oak Hill in the sectional tournament 68-58 last year and 46-34 in 2011.
Saturday's winner will play a state semifinal at 10:45 a.m. Thursday at Ohio State's Value City Arena.
Ironton made its last trip to Columbus in 2005, losing to Cincinnati North College Hill, 71-65, in the Division III championship game.
Oak Hill last went to the state in 2009. It was Persin's first season with the Oaks and they won the Division IV championship.