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Prep Notebook: Former pupil defeats teacher

Mar. 17, 2013 @ 11:15 PM

Ironton High boys basketball coach Mark LaFon remembers the days when he played and coached at Chesapeake High School and ran/directed offensive and defensive sets drawn up by Norm Persin, head coach of the Panthers at the time.

That gave basketball fans the "teacher vs. pupil" scenario Saturday night when the Fighting Tigers met Oak Hill in the Ohio Division III regional championship game at Ohio University's Convocation Center in Athens. Persin took over the Oaks program in 2006-07 after spending 21 incredible years at Chesapeake. He had such an impact there, the school named the court in his honor -- Norm Persin Court.

Pupil got the best of teacher again as Ironton won, 66-49, to advance to the Ohio State Tournament for the third time in school history. LaFon walked down to the Oak Hill bench just before tipoff and did a quick handshake with Persin. After the game, with emotions high, players and coaches exchanged handshakes before returning to their benches for the awards ceremony.

"I'm not going to lie, it's special," LaFon said of getting such a significant victory against the coach ranked No. 5 on the all-time Ohio win list with 644. "I look back. I played for him. I couldn't write this any better. I learned a lot from him. The coach I am today comes a lot from his teachings. Competitor? That shows in me and him."

LaFon is in his eighth season at Ironton and 20th overall as a head coach. He spent six seasons as head coach of the Chesapeake girls team and assistant under Persin for the boys.

Persin got a little emotional when he met with the media after the game. He said it's difficult for the seniors to go out this way. He said they were upset and rightfully so. The seniors Persin must replace are Luke Hammond, Ryan Gaines, Drew Haislop, Nathan Kidd, Kyle Love and Cody Crabtree.

"I told the kids that if they're not upset, then they haven't learned a lot about being competitive," said Persin, who led the Oaks to the Ohio Division IV state title in 2009.

Persin then talked about the exchange he had with LaFon, calling it one of the most moving he's heard in 37 years on the bench.

"He said, 'I'm as competitive today as I was as a player," Persin said. "That's what you made me.' They're a great team. They deserved to win."

Ironton (23-2) goes to Columbus on a 17-game winning streak. The Fighting Tigers last lost on Dec. 29 to Coral Reef (Fla.) in the fifth-place game in the Junior Orange Bowl Classic in Miami. They meet Ottawa-Glandorf in the first semifinal at 10:45 a.m. Thursday at Ohio State's Value City Arena.

NEW STANDARD: Maggie Drazba of St. Marys ran a 10:29.60 for the true 2 mile at the New Balance Indoor Nationals last Sunday in New York. Using CompleteRunning.com's time conversion calculator, that converts to a 10:26.15, which eclipses her current All-Time State Best in the 3200. The senior's headed to West Virginia.

FIRST IN KENTUCKY: The inaugural KHSAA Archery State Championships are scheduled Monday and Tuesday at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville. In its first year as a KHSAA-sponsored sport activity, the Association has partnered with the Kentucky National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) to manage the KHSAA State Championship in conjunction with the National Field Archery Association Championships in Louisville.

David Walsh is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or dwalsh@herald-dispatch.com.